Bookbinding 

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There’s something beautiful about a stack of books bound with Coptic stitch. Particularly when you know that the contents of each book are your own. These are copies of my Book of Splendor, a collection of poetry exploring the relationships between nature and the divine in a particular corner of New England.

These are part of a limited edition of 100 copies: numbered, and hand bound, and the hand signed by the author, that is me. I interested in buying one? Let me know.

Bookbinding projects

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The sewing machine is busted. I am waiting for a part to come in. Singer sewing machines in the early 1960s began to transition from metal parts to hybrids that were partly metal and partly plastic. One of these plastic parts has become so worn from rubbing against metal constantly, that it has become un-usable.

Accordingly I have shifted over to bookbinding for the moment while waiting for the part to come in. Two of these books got bound this weekend — an orange copy of The Book of Splendor, intended for a friend. And a gray copy of The Mansions of the Moon. And finally, this morning, a black copy of The Behenian Stars

I’m least happy with the Behenian Stars binding. The other two books are substantial enough for a Coptic stitch binding. But The Behenian Stars is not. It’s only two quires or signatures, and it doesn’t really hang together properly. The Mansions of the Moon, likewise, is a little flimsy but it may improve with weighting and pressing it a bit. We’ll see.

I have eight more copies of the Book of Splendor to bind. This one isn’t ready for purchase yet, though it will be expensive: hand-made covers, hand-bound by the author? The Behenian Stars is available on both Etsy and Amazon as a digital PDF, but to sell a physical copy of it, I think I’ll need to thicken the book up a bit. Maybe if I combine it with the Mansions book, both together will be dense enough to bind easily.

Tai Chi Poem on Amazon

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I’m pleased to report that the Tai Chi Poem I composed in 2015 is now available for Kindle from Amazon.com.  All sixty-two sonnets in order, together with the diagrams I composed for the poem, are now in a single digital document and available for $4.49.  You can go through the back entries of this website and find all the poems — they were composed in 2014 and published here — but now they’re available as a convenient download.

The Tai Chi Poem

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In 2014, I composed sixty-two sonnets describing the process of moving through the tai chi form that I first learned in 1998 in northeastern Connecticut.  That sonnet sequence is now available as a downloadable Kindle file from Amazon.com.

Like most of my sonnets, these are Shakespearean or Elizabethan sonnets, in iambic pentameter with a rhyme scheme running ABABCDCDEFEFGG.  Some portions of the sequence may be useful to tai chi teachers for creating effective mnemonics for their own students, but I don’t recommend trying to learn tai chi from reading the poems aloud or reciting them.  Some things are better left to professionals rather than me.  I also think the poems are quite beautiful on their own.  My goal, overall, was to create something akin or in the tradition of the traditional martial arts and tai chi manuals, a combination of simple diagrams and poetic descriptions of the movements. The work is dedicated to my teacher, Laddie Sacharko of Star Farm Tai Chi.  The tai chi poem will always be available exclusively from Amazon in print form.

Other Works

The Tai Chi Poem also joins my other book, Poems for the Behenian Stars  for $9.99 on Amazon.  This second book, a poetic exploration of the fifteen stars of H.C. Agrippa’s list of the major stars of the northern celestial hemisphere, is also available as a PDF download from Etsy for $10.  I earn more royalties from an Etsy download, but I understand that Kindle grants me access to a wider audience.  Feel free to tell your friends!

Behenian Stars on Amazon.com

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screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-7-50-22-pmI’m pleased to report that the Poems for the Behenian Stars poetry book is now available on Etsy as a downloadable PDF (US $10.00) file, and on Amazon.com as a Kindle file (US 9.99).  So you now have a choice of formats.  I earn somewhat more from the Etsy download than from Amazon, which I hope factors into your choice; but either way it should work to your advantage.

What do you get in this collection?

The Behenian Stars are found in the writings of H.C. Agrippa in Book II, Part 4, chapter 47 and in other sources on medieval and Renaissance astrology and astronomy.  No wonder, really: most of them are first-magnitude stars in the northern celestial hemisphere:

  1. Algol in Perseus
  2. the Pleiades in Taurus
  3. Aldebaran in Taurus
  4. Sirius in Canis Major
  5. Procyon in Canis Minor
  6. Regulus in Leo
  7. Arcturus in Bootes
  8. Algorab in Corvus
  9. Spica in Virgo
  10. Polaris in Ursa Minor
  11. Capella in Auriga
  12. Alphecca or Gemma in Corona Borealis
  13. Antares in Scorpio
  14. Vega in Lyra
  15. Deneb Algedi in Capricorn

And to this list I’ve added three other poems, honoring Fomalhaut, the only one of the four royal stars not in the list; Altair in Aquila the eagle, one of the other first-magnitude stars in the northern sky; and Alkaid in Ursa Major, a star whose spectrum helps to classify other stars and which sits somewhere between 1st and 2nd magnitude on that 6-point scale.

The poems are in the traditional formal style called an ode: three stanzas of ten lines each, organized metrically and with a rhyme scheme of ABABCDECDE.  Each poem draws on the traditional lore of both astronomy and astrology, and ends with a call to bring the influence of the star into our lives.  For magic, for poetry, for learning the northern stars, for the purpose of studying the night sky — these poems help get you to the behen (from the Arabic word for ‘root’) of naked-eye astronomy.  Reading the poems while under the night sky will help connect you to your ancestors, and to the timeless mythology that constantly rolls by overhead.

Poem: For Jupiter & Saturn

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On Thursday this week, there’s an unusual astrological moment.  Jupiter will be in the third decan of Libra, and — 120° away or at a Trine Aspect, in the language of astrology — Saturn will be in the third decan of Sagittarius.  The two large outer planets, one governing expansion and rulership and the other governing discipline and boundaries, will be in a highly-beneficial relationship called “mutual reception” where each reinforces the other:  Jupiter granting expansiveness of ideas and courage in the face of challenges; and Saturn reinforcing discipline and deliberateness to accomplish difficult tasks.  A friend of mine, A.A., is undertaking a special operation, and this is composed for his work.

Hail, great lords of the outermost darkness,
stern Saturn in the skull of a stallion,
Jove at the center of spinning swiftness!
Guiding stars who lead this treasure galleon,
I glory in your lights and praise your Names.
For you, old one, with great discipline rule
the mariner’s careful contemplation
and the discipline that achieves results.
Jupiter — riding ocean like a pool,
remaining steady amid gyration,
the cheerful captain whom the world exalts!

Now each of you in palaces reside
where your dignities sit, enthroned in grace,
and each of you also may hear and heed
the other’s degrees, turned to each friend’s face.
Secret allies in steadiness of will,
and unafraid in the tumult and strife
of all the hazards of troublesome years:
when all is wording ’round, you remain still —
charting out the course of a mindful life,
and steering true, like clever engineers.

Great and glorious, reliable, stern —
steady and sure as the music of spheres:
make this ship a home, and often return:
be my bankers, my cautious financiers,
who grow my wealth and keep my accounts black,
avoiding the wave-troughs of debt and waste,
while leading me through confusion and cheat.
When the winds change, guide me to the new tack;
then help me face the gale properly braced,
with an agile ship, and sea-ready feet.

 

Poem: Hymn to the Three Kings

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Today is the Feast of the Epiphany.  Among other things, it’s the feast of the Three Kings, or three wise men, or the three magi, who brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ child in Bethlehem of Judea.  This is a hymn to them, (as opposed to a sonnet) as witnesses and greeters of Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

Hail to thee, wise ones in search of a king,
bearing gifts of myrrh, frankincense, and gold:
you beheld a star, a marvelous thing —
a royal birth in Israel, long foretold.
From distant lands you traveled, while the star
chatoyant and shimmering in beauty,
ascended from the East to find its throne,
to shout glad tidings: “The child is here!”
You three of great wisdom knew your duty,
and went to the place where the star shone down.

What gifts you brought! Shining gold for a king;
myrrh, because death is the fate of all men,
and — since for this child, the angels sing —
not the soldier’s sword nor the prophet’s pen,
but frankincense offered to deity.
How else does one welcome a conqueror
who sets down his arms and makes you his heirs,
Imparting the peace of eternity
On those who believe? Still, baby-terror
startles the chickens, the ox and the mares.

Purpled linen and rich embroidery
becomes stained with mud, and urine, and straw
as you worship the babe. No finery,
no gold cradle — just the prophets and law
fulfilled as you need in adoration,
while Word Made Flesh bawls. Guide me and send grace,
wise men three, who saw in that star good news
of a king sent from God for Creation—
transcendence immanent in time and space —
show me the Light where my knees sink in ooze.

+ 20 + C + B + M + 17 +

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Painting gifted to S: The Final Approaching

A song for finding your coffee

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I composed a song today. Chance are you know the tune; try singing along with me:

Oh where, o where did my coffee cup go?
O where, O where can it be?
My brain is fogged and my wits are slow —
I need more caffeine in me!

And of course, as soon as I’d sung this little ditty, I found my coffee cup.  In the last place I looked, no less.

I think we grossly underestimate the importance of folk magic — ditties, rhyming quatrains, songs, and so on — in the work of re-enchanting the world.

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