The Making of a Book

In the spirit of reuse – the description for my summer course.

ENG 459: Editing and Publishing: The Making of a Book

Making a book takes work—and it’s not done when the writing’s done. Still to come, the queries, the subs, the pitches, the proposals. The rejection slips. The acceptance letter! Revisions. Cover art, layout, permissions. Galleys, copyediting, proofs and proofreading. Marketing. ARCs. The launch party. The book tour. Would you believe it’s actually kind of fun? (It’s your book.) (Whether you’re author or editor or designer or marketing intern—it’s yours.) (Also at key points there are wine and cheese.)

This course is designed with two sorts of student in mind. One, those who’d like, when the time is right, to see their own work in book form—knowing that books can take a gazillion forms, from mass market paperbacks to e-books to small–press run poetry volumes to one-of-a-kind artist’s books writ in oxblood on paper made of pond algae. (Wondering why the hyphen between “small” and “press” looks too long? It’s an en-dash. Wonder why it’s there? Take this course, you’ll find out.) Other, students interested in careers in the publishing industry. And here, while the book will be our focus, it won’t be our bound; knowledge you gain, skills you develop (e.g., copyediting, proofreading), will be useful in careers across the publishing industry.

Expect lots of hands-on exercises; in-class work on your peers’ drafts; student presentations on how books come to be; student-designed lessons on grammar and punctuation; and a final research project in which you explore a possible path for yourself, as author, editor, agent, designer, or TK, in editing and publishing. Likely texts: Suzanne Gilad, Copyediting and Proofreading for Dummies. Sarah Parsons Zackheim and Adrian Zackheim, Getting Your Book Published for Dummies.

Now I’ve got to design the damn thing.

Aasemic writing

Asemic writing is writing you can’t read. Semic writing is writing you can. (A back formation, there’s no such word.) I am at play, finessing the difference, with aasemic writing.

A joy of asemic writing is that it draws all the promise of meaning-making, all the whole multifoliate interpretive apparatus, into activity, w/o resolution or conclusion. It’s Steinian indeterminacy, in not the syntax but the graphemes. It’s the made mark as blastocyst, as stem cell, as potential to become. Is it a Deleuzian plateau? Maybe, still sweating that concept out.

So the aasemic script I’ve been playing with is neither indeterminate nor determinate. (GOD you can take this non-dualist thing too far, mm? how’s this not just centrist squish?) It starts with a journal page transcribed in a projective hand – descender a plunge, cross-stroke a jailbreak. Then I wave or shiver it over the photocopier light bar as it slides under, gathering data in.

All this is lead in to say, The New Post-Literate has posted a few, and that makes me happy, cuz they’re the first bits of Overject to be published, other than here, which don’t count. Here’s the link.

And here are a few other recent offerings there I think especially cool.

The home page of The New Post-Literate where it’s all to be found.

A lot of my trouble w/ academic parlance comes from trying to translate Buddhist vocabulary and values to a non-Buddhist circumstance. Most of the rest of it comes from being a lazy and a lousy Buddhist. (The latter’s 90%.)

Feste to Viola, Twelfth Night, “I am [a] corrupter of words.” After they’ve just rung their changes on live, stand, lie. I compared the move on lie to a triple-axle – Viola to Feste, “yo watch this move” – and one of my students found a sextuple axle in it, bam. Post-structuralism, its insights, e.g., words’re banana peels, dates back at least to Shakespeare, if not to Jesus? “On this rock I build my church,” that’s a pun, Jesus is making a funny, I told them, explaining the finger joints of a dactyl, by way pterodactyl. Petros (Peter), petra (rock). Long live the rhizome. Weed shoot that cracks the rock.

One more for Elise Partridge

Hello friends. A three-way conversation between Barbara Nickel, Stephanie Bolster, and myself on the life and work of our loved friend Elise Partridge has now gone live at the Winnipeg Review. It’s to be found here.

And, if you’re curious, I wrote a bit about the challenge and wonderment of the conversation itself here. You can read some more about Elise herself here. And Barb’s wonderful blog is here. Steph doesn’t have a blog but here’s her publisher’s page here. Enjoy, please, do.

I hope Elise’s spirit won’t mind me appending this.

I was invited to a celebration of Rosh Hashanah tonight and we were asked as part of our lovely evening to express an intention for the year to come. Mine was, to be more patient with others and myself. What’s this have to do with Elise? She wasn’t especially patient with herself or others. In fact I loved her impatience, it was was wise, it was holy! At least when she was skewering someone’s pretensions it was, very.

But my impatience is most often crap. (And that, that’s impatience with impatience. Yeah baby gotcha.) And I’ve just now started sitting zazen again, after years off the cushion, and I’m feeling what a difference it makes to be okay with not getting it exactly right all the time. And a little bit more patient with me, I’m a little more so with some other, too. Does seem to go that way.

Came as this a few ago

TD 90V - imageKshanti paramita = the perfection of patience, or patience beyond patience. Patience so sunk in itself you might not recognize it as patience. That was Elise, too. Barb, Steph, tell me, wasn’t it?

Occam’s Razor

The student journal for which I serve as faculty advisor is, a bit belatedly, hanging out among the electrons. Occam’s Razor, we got Burroughs’s cutups, Harry Smith’s psychedelic animations, Coriolanus, social media in China, diatoms in your gas tank.

These guys done a great job in, oh let me tell you, some trying conditions. Or I’ll skip the tell you and you’ll trust me. For reals though check it out. Asses are kicked in it.

Dumuzi at an end

I finished Dumuzi this morning. There are tweaks to come, but he’s ready to start going out, muddy face sheepish grin and all.

The first poem in the book is


A son of my
first mind, was
at leaf, wind on
raw skin, fist
of one thirst
snowmelt where
hemlocks over-
hanging shiver
round of what
no one had
made, made
of what no

The title poem is


Let no state be
enemy. Wet, dry, agon.
Work an inmost first
flower mutedly.

Wind blows light about
the life (hemlocks) from
which art is not apart

nor of a part. What a
rock thought to do
was rain and it

Deer come
out of th

The oldest lines date back to Nov. 1999. A conversation I mis-overheard on the M.V. Quinsam, a ferry plying the route from Gabriola, an island pinched between Vancouver Island and the BC mainland, where I lived in a summer cottage in the off-season

—they thought they had it all but they didn’t
—oh, once you have that you don’t get rid of it
—Monday she goes, an ontologist,
                     that’s the specialist

The newest lines date back to last night. An uptight but not incorrect galla reminds Inanna of the terms of her release from the underworld.There's gots The last poem in the book is elegy.


And the image atop is Tammuz by Ardon Mordecai. Sent me years ago by fellow poet and University of Utah alum Timothy O’Keefe. Thank you Tim. I aspire to it as a cover.

And now it’s time to start catching up on what seem years, though are just days, of dishes, laundry, bills. Oh and I believe I have two new courses to teach starting Tuesday. (Really I’m about to start compiling a list of contest deadlines and open reading periods . . . ) Thanks, all, for the kindness of your words, those who have sent some, or of your attending upon these words, which somehow I have felt you doing, I have, and it sustains me, it does.

We’re going live

So this is The Art of Compost and it’s a blog. Because what the world really needs is another blog. It began with my prep for a course of the same name and soon took on a life of its own at plural intersections of my reading thinking teaching writing speaking feeling looking wondering.

Pretty sure to go in the bin are my thoughts on and misunderstandings of

  • 20th and 21st C. poetry and poetics in North America, esp. objectivist and Black Mountain traditions — what Stephen Burt has called The New Thing.
  • A mostly subterranean lineage connecting us to Very Old Things — busted up clay tablets, cave paintings, the intelligence of stones (sitting still).
  • Whatever collapses, rots, blends, merges, fosters, nourishes.
  • Stray thoughts on teaching, writing, reading, appearing, disappearing.

The impetus comes from Jed Rasula’s This Compost but he has neither reviewed nor approved this usage. Time for a picture of a nurse blog.


I hope you’ll check it out. If you like what you see, you can follow on by clicking the “Follow me …” button. Or watch for new posts on Facebook. (If you Like the Facebook page you’ll hear about new posts. I think. Pretty sure.)

And let me know what you think! Leave a comment in the comment box …


On origins, variously

Gone meta

This is a big fat post because wordpress doesn’t wish to import my very first early tumblr posts. So I’m piling ’em in here. Maybe I should just let it go but I’m not good at that. This blog, and rotting things generally, cuz I’m not, here come to teach me.

On tablets

Archaeologists unearthing clay tablets (Gilgamesh) and mummies wrapped in strips of recycled papyrus (Sappho) have developed a robust minor vocabulary for what’s gone missing.

Ellipses. Italics. Round brackets, square brackets, curly brackets, angle brackets, half square brackets. Each to mark a different sort of goneness.

Armand Schwerner had some fun with that vocabulary and in the process turned marks of absences to presences in their own right. This page from his Tablets takes it to one extreme.

Schwerner - Tablet X

And, at that extreme, beyond the last palm of the mind, something winks at Stevens, his “Man on the Dump”: “The the.” Hee hee. Schwerner probably also had in mind Pound’s “Papyrus”:

Spring .  .  .  .  .  .  .
Too long .  .  .  .  .  .
Gongula .  .  .  .  .  .

What I’ve been reading here. Armand Schwerner, The Tablets. Sappho, If Not, Winter (Anne Carson trans.). James B. Pritchard (ed.), The Ancient Near East: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures.

Here’s a bit of Gilgamesh for ya. G’night.



The Bible is a huge gorgeous reeking compost pile. Take Genesis. Three or more authors have their hands in it. The earliest is known as J, the Yahwist, and his God is fierce, dangerous, fallible, embodied. He likes to walk in the shade on a hot day. Then there’s P, the Priestly writer, his God’s detached and magisterial, his words are pure act, no dirtying of the hands, just let there be light. And E, the Elohist, his name for God Elohim, inconveniently plural.

Drawing it all together, somewhat skilled and somewhat hapless, R, the Redactor, trying to get a coherent account out of it all. He could cut and paste but couldn’t alter much the texts he received as sacred.

He succeeded insofar as we have a single thing called “The Bible.” He failed gorgeously insofar as we have two overlapping Creation accounts, glaring contradictions in the story of the Flood, and not one, not two, but three iterations of the “Hey, Pharaoh, that’s no sister, that’s my wife” gag.

Writings are readings. Readings are restlessly multiple. Thank God for which.

What I’ve been reading here. R. Crumb, The Book of Genesis Illustrated. David Rosenberg and Harold Bloom, The Book of J. Stephen Mitchell, Genesis.

Lastly, the beauty, to this atheist, of two thoughts in Genesis. That the created is good. And that even omnipotent beings come to rest.


So I’m starting to think about a course called “The Art of Compost” I’m set to teach this summer. And I thought, why not a blog, work out some ideas there.

Root quote

The recovery of the compost library extends in all directions.

– Jed Rasula, This Compost