Shadows, Poems, & Projections: Just a few haiku

It’s one thing to say I’m going to start writing the truth, as I did in my previous blog. Actually doing it? That’s quite another matter, but here’s a first attempt. When I write these haiku, whom am I speaking to? Who is the “you” in my poetry? As I was reminded in one of my classes last week (rather inelegantly, but still), whenever we point our finger at someone else, we are really pointing back at our shadow selves, those parts of ourselves we are at war with. We are always projecting our fears and hopes, desires and needs onto those around us. And so it is with my poetry. Sure, these may be inspired by a particular person. There’s a muse, to be certain, but on deeper reflection, I am “you.” You are me, and to paraphrase the Beatles, we are all together. Goo goo g’joob.

I loved the way you
Swept the door open and bowed,
Welcoming me in.

We had a language–
an undercurrent, riptide.
I drowned in your words

You bequeathed to me
This gift of desperation
Exquisitely wrapped

Stop outguessing me.
Just walk your way, and I’ll run
mine. We’ll meet midway.

You do walk alone.
Were you breathless, keeping up
With my racing heart?

I’ve been your hostage
Since I read that first poem–
Enslaved by those words.

I am the blue sky
And you are the deep green sea
Breathe the air between

Hardcover Haiku

I started to post this Sunday night, but whenever I added an image to my blog, WordPress seemed to just drop it willy-nilly where ever, and my blog post looked so disorganized and slovenly, I couldn’t in good conscience go live with it. My intention was to post a step-by-step look at how I made my hardcover Haiku Love book, but I also wanted you to be able to follow along, Dear Reader. I had to conduct a few hours of research in order to bring you this blog. Hopefully, my newfound skill with HTML tables will be sufficient to show you how I made my book.

book_nans_hands final cover done
TLW reading Haiku Love The finished front cover

The first step in the process is printing out the poems. Sometimes, when I have plenty of time and lots of patience, I hand stamp the poems. But today I had neither time nor patience, and I wanted the book to look a bit more polished, so I decided to print it out on some Arches watercolor paper. I had already done the layout in Word last weekend before I uploaded it to KDP, so I just needed to cut out the paper to 4×6 inches and load up the printer tray.

After printing out page 1 and 2 back to back, I realized I was going to need to adjust the margins so that the odd numbered pages had a one inch margin on the left and the even pages had a one inch margin on the right, if I wanted to print on both sides.

intropage pages1

I printed all of the odd pages first, with a wide left margin, then flipped the paper over in the printer, adjusted the margins for a wide right margin, and printed all of the even pages. Amazingly, it worked! All of the pages came out in the right order and right side up. I was ready to start working on the cover.

bookboard1 paintbookboard
I cut out the book board I paint the book board

While the paint dried, I got out my carved blocks and ink so I could make some more prints of the Cheiko Rei symbol to glue to the book cover so it more closely resembled the cover on the ebook version. I really only needed one print, but it’s not easy to ink up the brayer for just one print, so I made a few.

ink2 stampandink
prestamp many stamps

While the paint and ink dried for the cover, I turned my attention back to the pages and the binding. Bindings are always tricky–I prefer to make books with actual covers that open and attach to the pages, but this is not easy with handmade books. I decided to do a combination: a Japanese stab binding to keep the pages together initially, that I would then combine with a screwed down cover. In order for the cover to open, I needed to use book paper to attach the parts of the cover. But first, I had to make the holes in the pages for the stab binding.

awl holes
I use an awl and a rubber mallet Clamps keep the pages in place
stitched2 stiched
I use the book press to hold the pages I tie off the binding with a square knot 

Now it is time to assemble all of the pieces. I use rubber stamps and archival dye ink to stamp the title and my name onto the cover, and I use rubber cement to attach the book paper to the cover. My friend Susie the art teacher taught me how to properly apply rubber cement–maybe everyone knows this, but I didn’t. First I coat both surfaces with the glue, let it dry and THEN press the pieces together for a tight adhesion. I have to be very careful to make sure everything is aligned before pressing it all down, though.

early cover cover with binding
I end up having to paint over my name
as I’ve not left enough room on the left
for the book paper.
Below, end paper makes it look more finished
I add a touch of red paint to break up
the unrelenting black
inside cover

I wish I had more pictures of my process. I get so wrapped up in the process, in the creative problem-solving as I go along, that I forget to stop and document what I’m doing. The final step is a bit unorthodox, but effective for my needs. I align the previously bound pages between the covers, clamp it down (using scrap book board to protect the cover from the clamps and to make for clean holes), and drill two holes for the screws I will use to finish the binding process. I love the way the screws look on the binding.

final cover done back of book
The front cover The back cover–sadly I inadvertently
flipped the cover before I drilled and
ended up with the inside being out and
with the much nicer outside being in.
Always check your work!

I was pretty happy with the way this turned out–but, always the perfectionist, I printed out two more sets of pages yesterday and built another cover. It turned out okay, but still is a long way from the finished product I have in my imagination. The paper I used in this version is really too stiff for the binding I started out trying to use, so I had to improvise. I ended up drilling holes that I then couldn’t use and had to cut off. I had to abandon my original cover idea and ended up with this three-ring improvisation. It’s not great, but for the stiff paper, it works. Stay tuned for further versions (and more documentation).

two haiku books second haiku book 1
second haiku book 2 second haiku book 3

B is for Bookmaking

I remember buying Hand Bookbinding: A Manual of Instruction over 25 years ago (1988, the receipt is still in the book). I was fresh out of college and enamored of fine books—books that harkened back to earlier times, pre-mass market paperbacks, back to when the making of the book was as much an art as the writing of the book. While manual presented concepts beyond my comprehension, the precise line drawings and the very idea that I could make a book awakened a yearning in me.blue_yellow_box1

I dreamed of making books even if the tools and the concepts were complicated, beyond the realm of my experience: book presses and folding bones, book tape, book thread. I couldn’t even imagine where I would find these items. Still, I kept the book, cracking it open occasionally to remind myself that someday I’d figure it out.

blue_yellow_accordion.jpgLooking back, I believe I viewed making books as an alternative way in to writing, a side door. I wanted to be a writer, having recently graduated with a Master’s degree in creative writing, yet I didn’t quite trust (myself? Anyone?) enough to put my words on the page. Bookmaking became a surrogate, related to books and writing but not writing. I wanted to write, but writing scared me.

So, I made empty books. I created journals for others to write in, burying my own writing dreams deep while I busied myself earning a living and crafting a career that would pay better than (not) writing. I became, for a while, the technology director for a Catholic elementary school. One day, having befriended the school’s art teacher, I took one of my handmade books in to show her. She wasn’t impressed.  So what, she said. Where’s the art? All you’ve done is cover some cardboard with pretty paper.madbk11

I stared at the book in my hands and realized she was right—I wasn’t making art any more than I was writing. Where’s the color on your pages, the art teacher asked. Where’s the risk?baby_book1

That was the whole point, I told her. I didn’t want to make a mess. I liked the pristine white pages, the straight lines, the perfect edges. Paint it, she commanded. Put something of yourself into it.  So, when I made my nephew, a skateboarder, a foldout book full of pictures of him skating, I thought I had answered her challenge:

liam6There’s no mess there, she said. Be bold. Be brave. But I couldn’t, not yet. I gave him a book that was very cool in concept, but still boring and dry.


I did better when I made the same type of book for my niece, a dancer. This time, I got messy and creative. I had to start over and paint over my messes. And things rolled from there. I became more inventive, more willing to make a mess and take risks.

A funny thing happened in the process—I started writing. I signed up for a screen writing class, and then a nine-month novel writing class, and the following fall quarter, a nine-month memoir writing class.

My bookmaking has improvedmadeline_purple_1, as has my writing—creativity breeds creativity, I think. As I take a risk in one area, it feels safer to risk in the other. I’ve been more willing though to be experimental with the book making, more staid and conservative in the book writing. Whenever I feel stuck with my writing, I can turn to the book making—and it’s no longer just books.

photo 1-1

Making books led me to learn how to make stamps, how to carve my own designs into a block, how to use ink and a roller to transfer the image onto whatever paper I wanted. I’ve made prayer flags for writers, books for friends and poets, for my kids, for my sweetie. I’ve made a game board for myself—Pamopoly—when I was feeling extremely stuck and creatively challenged in my writing. I’ve made art prints and pop up books whenever I am betwixt and between writing projects.pamopoly 2inrix

I’ve continued to write and to make books, though I’ve not yet combined the two. Perhaps that is next. After all, I have all of these haikus just hanging around.









Writing, Always with the Writing

A week ago Sunday I returned from a lovely few days of basking in writerly goodness—a writing retreat to Lummi Island, two events featuring Cheryl Strayed in the ‘ham, and then four days at AWP in Seattle. Coming down over the past week has been a gentle process. I’ve been motivated to work. This blog a day thing is keeping me writing. The daily haikus, too. I’m also reading a lot about writing. I finished Theo Pauline Nestor’s Writing is My Drink—wonderful book, motivating, inspiring. I just bought Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing. I had the privilege of hearing her read a bit from it at AWP. Can’t wait to read it.

Currently I’m reading  Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland. The first edition of this book came out in 2001 and it’s currently in it’s 13th printing, so it’s done quite well for a slim volume on art.

I noticed on the end cap on the Memoir section at Village Books the other day—I’m always hovering around the Memoir section, hoping something will happen (irrational, I’m aware)—and there it was, speaking to me as so many of the books do. I passed it by twice before I finally gave in and bought it.

I’m not quite half way through as I type this—turns out it is one of those books best savored over a couple of weeks rather than inhaled overnight. Every night I pick it up and read a few pages. I toss it in my book bag as well and take it with me in case I have time to read something other than my iPhone during the day.

Here’s the first line from the first chapter:  “Making art is difficult.” I’m hooked. Go on. The book seeks to answer, I think, these questions:  If art is so damn hard, how does it even get done at all? What are the obstacles that artists must overcome to create?

I only have to get to page four to find this nugget:  “Making art provides uncomfortably accurate feedback about the gap that inevitably exists between what you intended to do and what you did.” Isn’t that the truth? How different is that paragraph I just wrote from the one that I thought I was going to write five minutes ago? The paragraph in my head practically danced off the page it was so lively, but now there’s this big brown poop pile of words that I actually typed and it bears absolutely no resemblance to what I intended to type. Why is that?

Bayles and Orland would argue that we need to type out many, many ugly piles of mediocre art in order to get to the one golden paragraph, the golden paragraph that shines the proverbial light in the inevitable darkness. Our job, the authors so helpfully point out, is to learn from our work. They say that “the function of the overwhelming majority of [our] artwork is to simply teach [us] how to make the small fraction of [our] artwork that soars.” We learn to work by doing our work.

Everyone has said this in every writing book I’ve read: Anne Lamott, Stephen King, Theo Nestor, Natalie Goldberg, Dani Shapiro are who pop into my  head at the moment. . . we have to put our butts in the chairs, we have to churn out shitty first drafts, we have to live in The Cave. We have to do the work. Cheryl Strayed said it last week when she was in town for Whatcom Reads. Multiple panelists at AWP said it last week. The book is not going to write itself, the painting won’t paint itself.

They also stress the importance of audience. Most people quit producing art when they lose their audience. For many folks, this time comes immediately after finishing school because our audience is suddenly gone. No more teachers, classmates, peers, student showings. It all vanishes and no one has taught us how to find our audience.

The authors make two recommendations. First, make friends with others who make art and share your work. Second, start to think less about showing your work in, say, MoMa, and more about showing it to those friends who make are.

I’m not sure what my point is here except to say that for me, there are two realities about writing—at least for me. The first is that no matter how much I think about writing something, nothing happens until I start actually writing. The second thing is that community is good. A writing community—being among so many writers, so many people with the same purpose, last week awakened the sleeping lazy writer in me. If all these people can write books, so can I. Because they are here to talk about it—they are here to help, to light the way, to pat me on the back, and to just sit across the table from me behind another laptop, working with me.

When Words Fail Me: My Writing, My Wedding

Sometimes the pressure to write builds up inside of me and it is so huge that I feel like I am going to explode. Someday The Little Woman may come home to find bits of me all over the house, word bits, words that built up and couldn’t find their way out of me. There will be a preponderance of prepositions and a truckload of nouns, verb carnage all over the kitchen, and gerunds on the ground (hey, that rhymed!). Adverbs and those nasty words that end in –ly will litter the walls, pronouns and random punctuation marks will be sprayed around.
Too often, these words don’t find an outlet. Instead I spin and dither. I find other ways to expend the energy inside, activities that seem less arduous than sitting down and grinding out sentences. This week, for example, I’ve set up the art table and started making things: prayer flags with my own twist and boxes to put the prayer flags in. I love making these boxes—I’ve been making books (books is a broad term, in book making, just about any form of art with words) for a number of years, and now for every book I make, I create a box in which to stow it. The timing is good, for making things. I can justify my projects as Christmas presents. These projects are my safety valve, the overflow, where the dangerous steam can spill without harming anything. Still, it is not writing.
And it’s not like I don’t have things to write about. I got married this weekend. I feel like I should be writing something about that.  We had a small and lovely ceremony with our daughters and good friends in attendance. My longtime friend Laura officiated, my friend and writing buddy Jolene took pictures (she’s good, check out her page). Our vows reflected the tenure of our relationship, sturdy vows, hard won truths reflecting our accrued wisdom. Mature vows from which the dewy innocence has been shaken, vows with wonder and tenderness and love.
TLW (aka SugarMama) and I have  been together for more than thirteen years. We had a silly ceremony ten years ago, and became registered domestic partners about five years ago. None of that was enough in the end however, for me to retain my health insurance benefits with her company. I proposed to her last Christmas not long after Washington State enacted its same sex marriage law. And yes, we gays fought to get married so we could have benefits, but I felt a little irritated rushing our ceremony in to beat a deadline. We were caught between her company’s end of the year deadline and the one that comes in June of next year that says the state will roll our domestic partnership into a marriage if we don’t act first.
(Yes, we had a year to make plans and do the deed. We need not have rushed, but all excuses and reasons aside, that is what happened, so don’t judge me, Dear Reader, just read on, quietly and without comment).
Family: Anna, Nancy, Pam, Taylor
I’ve run out of words. So here are some photos instead and a copy of the poem I wrote for my wife (wow, my WIFE! There’s something I didn’t think I’d ever be saying in this lifetime, forever ending the dilemma of what to call her: significant other, TLW (always), partner, girl friend, spouse, better half, my uhm friend special friend, the boss, etc).
Our rings–mine is the sapphire.
Shout out to Jolene Hanson, photographer
Nancy, You are my anchor

The harbor in the sea

The home from which I can journey
The door that will always be open
I rise and when I fall
You lift me up
Our bodies entwine
Rising up from our bellies
I’ve held my breath all these years
And now with you
I can exhale
I offer you myself
A safe harbor in the sea
A home with heart and fire
A door that is always open
When you rise I will cheer
Hitched! At last.
And if you fall, I lift you up
Our bodies entwine and
Rise up from our bellies
We breathe in as one
And now that we are home together
I can exhale
The circle of this ring continues forever,

As does my love for you.    

My Distractions:

A TED Talk a Day to Keep the Doctor At Bay

I’ve been doing this thing lately—trying to find a new way to work daily exercise into my routine. I’ve had to give up running, at least for the time being, due to some heel and nerve issues (not plantar fasciitis—why does everyone want to diagnose me with PF?). I’ve had to come up with an exercise routine that won’t aggravate my heels and also work in the exercises my physical therapist has been giving me. It’s a damn good thing I don’t work outside of the home these days because all of this physical activity takes some serious time. And now that there’s more darkness during the day than light, and more rain than dry, I’ve been doing all this exercise indoors.
So, I’ve been riding my bicycle. Last Christmas The Little Woman gave me a bicycle trainer—it was the only thing I had asked for. All last year I used it exactly once, though the bicycle sat on it for the better part of the year, all dusty and neglected in a corner of the West Wing (that’s what we call our family room here at Casa Durberg). I preferred to slip into my running shoes and strap on my headlamp and go outside, rain or shine, for a run around the ‘hood. I did not care for sitting stationary on that bicycle seat.
But, my runner’s wings have been clipped, and I’d rather pedal fast going nowhere than give up my unhealthy eating habits. Since I don’t have an income and am relying on the generosity of TLW for the time being, I can’t afford bigger pants. To keep striving toward that elusive girlish figure, I’ve been riding my bike every morning for the past couple of weeks (hey, I know, not exactly a trend but it’s a start).
Last winter when we set up the trainer, we also mounted a smallish television to the wall so I’d have something to look at while I pedaled. But the thought of watching the inane morning talk shows during my workout made my skin crawl. I am not a big tv fan (ok, Breaking Bad, Scandal, Orange is the New Black—I’ll cop to loving these shows, but I’m all caught up on them and the tv in the WW doesn’t have On Demand anyway—nor does it have a DVD player). And the thought of pedaling through countless advertisements seemed counter productive. Nothing makes time slow down more than a series of ads for drugs to take care of erectile dysfunction, GERD, or that new pharma darling, Low T.
I wanted my 45 minutes to fly by, ad-free. I wanted to be enraptured rather than disgusted by what I was watching. I wanted to be so carried away in my viewing that I would not even notice the clock or the miles, or how freaking boring it is to pedal in one place. (On the upside, I never have to turn around and ride back.) 
I decided I’d watch TED Talks as I pedaled. I love TED Talks (yes, I know, I know, it’s recently become fashionable to dis them. Still.) I have been riveted by Brene Brown and Esther Perel in the past. It’s a win-win—I can exercise and learn something. I can sweat and be inspired. 
My plan required a small reconfiguration of the WW—the purchase of a new media cabinet so I could bring together the TV, the PC, the speakers, and the receiver (and our Sirius Radio). And I’m very proud of myself for hooking it all up and making it all work together without having to spend more than $3.00 on any new technology.
So that’s what I’ve been doing–pulling on my padded bike shorts and riding gloves each morning, firing up a new TED Talk, and hopping on my bicycle trainer while being regaled with all sorts of fascinating information.  I started with Elizabeth Gilbert and her talk on elusive genius. Then I watched Amy Tan on creativity. I’ve been riding my way through a TED playlist called Spoken Word Fireworks
This morning I tuned in to catch up on the local Bellingham TEDx talks that I wasn’t able to see live streamed last Tuesday. I was floored by Naseem Rakha’s inspirational talk about living with our arms wide open and by Robbyn Peters Bennett’s impassioned discussion on ending childhood spanking (find the Bellingham TEDx talks here—Robynn begins around 3:20 and Naseem’s talk begins at about the 3:40 mark).
The single most amazing thing about TED talks is that no matter what I watch, I’m always inspired. I did not think I would love a talk about ending spanking, but I did. Who among us wasn’t spanked as a child? There is always something to learn—about our world, our lives, our dreams, our fears, our successes, and our failures.
Dear Reader, what TED talks should I watch next? Which ones will keep me riveted to my bicycle seat and make the minutes fly by? Which ones will make my jaw drop and teach me something new? What TED talks have changed your life or given you new perspective?