A Compost Commonplace

A Compost Commonplace is the book for which this blog’s a rough draft.

Blog to book is rarely a good idea, but I think this concept’s sound.

When I started, the blog was for its own sake. But a few years in, working on another project, I noticed how the Western manuscript page, up to and even into the advent of movable type, resembles the web page across which we wander now. Each is a regio dissimilitudinis, a region of unlikeness, tugging the eye this way & that.

On the medieval page, a panel of text is held in the crook of an arm of smaller text that glosses it. Interlinear script draws Latin into small tidy vernacular. Gilt capitals and pornographic drypoint doodles lure your attention into dirty gutters. The page invites the eye to meander, drift, plummet, & rise again.

And, our attention’s become wayward again, online. Sidebars, banner ads, thumbnail images, hyperlinks – it’s hard to hold a focus. The typeset page I grew up with, its steady progress from top left to bottom right, and repeat, is it just an aberration of a few centuries, an orderly interregnum between joyous formal carnivals?

I’m always attentive to attention. So try this. If the typeset page we over say 35 grew into induces concentration, deep focus, this more riotous pre- & post-modern reading encounter proposes bare attention, a light rain of awareness spread evenly over the environs one chooses a way through.

Anyway, I’m using divers pages, w/ an emphasis on European illuminated manuscripts, ornate crazed & sublime, as loose frames I seed with content from the blog, then see what creatures grow there, intended or adventitious.

The project’s early stages, haven’t much worth showing yet, even roughdraftwise, but here’s the preface I’ve knocked out, then a few posts on the proj.


This book began as a blog you can find at theartofcompost.com.

I’m transposing it here to a chimeric form. Chimera as in hybrid – bricolage – a robe of patches.

The Chimaera of Lycia in Asia Minor was a lion in front, a goat in the middle, a snake at the rear, said Homer, and breathed fire.

“This old plum tree is boundless. It forms spring; it forms winter. It arouses wind and wild rain. It is the head of a patch-robed monk; it is the eyeball of an ancient buddha. It becomes grass and trees; it becomes pure fragrance. Its whirling, miraculous transformation has no limit.” Dōgen.

The lion here is the serial poem, as described by poets Jack Spicer, Robin Blaser. The book is going down in sequence, that of the blog before it, with little or no looking back – Orpheus but rampant, headlong.

The goat of it, eating everything, is the commonplace book, where one tends to a moving picture of one’s mind by gathering and arranging discoveries – quotations, letters, poems, recipes, tables of weights and measures, &c. It tends to miscellany, scrapbookhood; very like a blog.

And the serpent, its mind the onset of the idea of form, a marriage of line and curve, so it moves forward by twisting side to side, is the page composed. The history of which I mean to ransack. Each page to be loosely set in homage to or hesitant mimicry of a published surface, its visible arrangement, i.e., its deployment of attention.

So the page becomes Reason’s bound on Energy’s tumult (Blake). The struggle between those 2 is one I feel at the bone. I make their war formal here.

Mostly on European fields of action – medieval manuscript folios and early modern typeset pages; gloss columns, scuds and banks of notes. Like blog posts, with their frames & hyperlinks, such surfaces continuously draw the eye off its chosen plummet downward, that it may move laterally towards a periphery, or through a door behind which the unseen.

Nothing says you have to read it in order. Nothing says you have anything.

Post Holes

YdrusCommonplace shells
Some pages I’m trying out for shells

Whitman – CompostA Compost Commonplace (I)
On the war of Energy and Reason in it & my perplexities there

compost jars 3From blog to book
The idea hatched & first draft of a preface

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