Back-words and Upside Down
I've been making weekly visits to Mike Kaylor's print shop at the O'Neill Literary House to start working on the Sleight book project. So far I have the type for the first two poems set and have begun setting the type for the last one. Setting type letter by letter by space by punctuation mark is a tedious, slightly disorienting, but oddly relaxing task. Lines of poetry are set in the usual order: from top to bottom, from right to left (on the page)--with type that means that one places the character sorts (pieces of lead type) in this same order, but backwards and upside down on the composing stick. Even the character sorts themselves are the reversals their printed selves. So when searching around in the job case, 'b's look like 'd's, 'd's look like 'b's, 'p's look like 'q's, and 'q's look like 'p's. Sometimes we don't even realize we've switched these letters until we print the first sheet and proof it. This could possibly be the origin of the proverb: "Mind your P's and Q's." It can be confusing, but after a while you learn to read your words and sentences backwards.