The first stirrings of The Collected Works of P.K. Page can be traced back to March of 2000, when Sandra Djwa, who was working with PK on her biography, suggested to her and to Zailig Pollock that Pollock edit a scholarly edition of her poetry. Pollock wrote to PK expressing his interest in the possibility but suggesting that they first discuss what would be involved. PK replied “I have no idea what is involved, so am not in a position to mouth off. The only thought I have is that I don’t want this project … to take up all my time. I am still alive and working after a fashion and that is where my priorities lie. However, as both Pratt and Klein [whom Pollock had previously edited] were dead, you probably don’t need much from the living body. Or, if you do, perhaps Sandra could be my conduit. She knows dates far better than I! I would be cooperative to the best of my ability and of course I would enjoy talking to you” [e-mail to Zailig Pollock, March 28, 2000].
Djwa arranged a meeting with Pollock and PK at PK’s home in Victoria in July of 2000, and at this meeting the three of them agreed to proceed with The Complete Poetry of P.K. Page. With the support of a standard research grant from SSHRC, work on the project began.
During this period, Pollock also undertook, at the suggestion of PK and the University of Toronto Press, to edit a selection of PK’s prose (focussing on her own work in particular, and on art and the artist in general) which she had been assembling. This appeared in 2006 as The Filled Pen: Selected Non-Fiction and the material it contains will be incorporated into the non-fiction section of The Digital Page.
Eventually, it was decided to expand the scope of the edition to include the whole range of PK’s writings in addition to the poetry – Brazilian Journal, children’s writing, correspondence, fiction, non-fiction, Mexican Journal – as well as the visual art she created under the name P.K. Irwin. The Collected Works would consist of The Digital Page, an online scholarly resource supplemented by individual volumes published by The Porcupine’s Quill. The Porcupine’s Quill had previously published The Hidden Room, an elegant and attractive collection of most of PK’s published poems, but one which was not intended as a scholarly edition and therefore lacked a textual apparatus (critical introduction, dates, lists of variants, explanatory notes, etc.). The General Editors would be Pollock, Djwa, and Dean Irvine. The negotiations leading to this decision were complex and protracted, but their result was very much to PK’s satisfaction. On August 10, 2009, she wrote: “Actually Zailig, I think some kind of a miracle has occurred!”
An initial application to SSHRC in 2009 for support for the Collected Works was unsuccessful, but an application in the following year succeeded, and the first phase of the project began in earnest. The editorial work in this phase included the preparation of the poetry (Pollock), Brazilian Journal (Suzanne Bailey and Christopher Doody), Mexican Journal (Margaret Steffler) and visual art (Michèle Rackham Hall) for both digital and print presentation, as well as the establishment of a database of PK’s correspondence.
In addition to this editorial work, the open source digital infrastructure of The Digital Page was designed and implemented. This included the Digital Page website designed by Wolf Maul of Semandra Mobile and Web Technologies and hosted by CWRC (the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory); and the text/image editing tool at the heart of The Digital Page, the Digital Page Reader, designed by Josh Pollock, a principal development manager at Microsoft Corporation.
To this point, the Digital Page Reader has been used to edit and display poetry manuscripts from the P.K. Page fonds at Library and Archives Canada (digitized as part of a joint-project with Editing Modernism in Canada); and drafts of Brazilian Journal not yet deposited in the Page fonds (digitization overseen by Doody). Refinement of the tool continues.
The first phase of the project also saw the publication, by The Porcupine’s Quill, of Kaleidoscope: Selected Poems of P.K. Page (2010), Brazilian Journal (2011) and Mexican Journal (2014). The Art of P.K. Irwin will be published in the near future. Unfortunately PK did not live to see any of these volumes appear.
An application for funding for the second phase, incorporating children’s writing (Steffler), correspondence (Djwa, Doody, Pollock), fiction (Elizabeth Popham) and non-fiction (Emily Ballantyne)– as well as further development of the Digital Page website and the Digital Page Reader is now under consideration by SSHRC.