Aug 20 2018
Preparing this book has been a journey. The editing and proofreading of a book always requires more than I anticipate. When I send out the Poetry Chaikhana poem emails, I regularly have a few type-os and misspelled or even missing words. You all know that. That’s frustrating to me when I notice mistakes only after I’ve sent the emails out. I like to tell myself those imperfections add to the charm of the emails, letting you know that it’s a real person sending out these emails, a person who is sometimes so enthusiastic for the material that he doesn’t always reread his own notes carefully before hitting the Send button. But I don’t think I can make the same argument when expanding and preparing that material of publication in a book. Taking that original material and preparing it for book form requires extensive work to edit and proofread the material. (Several volunteers from the Poetry Chaikhana community helped greatly with the final stages of the proofreading – thank you!)
I also have to go through the patient process of acquiring all of the necessary reprint permissions. Yes, it’s true that most of the poems I feature are several centuries old, but the translations are usually recent, and those translations are still under copyright. Many publishers charge a fee to grant reprint permissions, which add up in expense when we are talking about a few dozen poems. When I cannot get the reprint permissions for free, I have to decide if I should no longer include a poem in the collection, after all. In other cases, I create my own translation, tracking down the poem in its original language, and spending days or weeks with the poem. (While frustrating to my planned schedule, this often ends up being the most satisfying path. Translating the poem myself allows me to spend time with it, noticing its subtleties and wordplay that are not always apparent to me in other translations.)
It is not small concern to decide on poem order for the book. I look for a sense of related theme and flow as I turn the pages and move from poem to poem. I found myself spending weeks arranging and rearranging the poems, grouping them one way and then another until they all seemed happy with their immediate neighbors in the book.
I had an adventure tracking down the wonderful cover photo of the Mevlana Sufi dancer dissolving into water as he spins. I found the image online early in the process of designing the cover, but the photographer’s web page was out of date and his contact information was no longer valid. I researched him online and discovered that he was a Turkish photographer who lived and worked in Istanbul, but I couldn’t find recent contact information. Eventually I began to talk with a friend who has designed book covers for other authors to see if he could help with my book cover, since my primary design idea had reached a wall. The price he quoted me for his work, while reasonable, was still beyond my range, however. He then said that maybe he could help with the cover image I had been seeking. I gave him the information I had about the image and the photographer. A few days later he said that the same image was available through a photography clearinghouse website. All I needed to do was to pay a small fee, and I could have commercial reprint permissions for the image, which I gladly did. I never managed to connect with the photographer directly, but his lovely image – both dynamic and meditative – now adorns the cover of This Dance of Bliss. Thank you, wherever you are!
Of course, the cover wasn’t done. I designed the rest of the cover around the image of the Sufi dancer. I had to decide on patterns and framing and colors. Fonts and font sizes had to be selected for the cover. All of the elements had to be placed and repositioning them countless times, until I felt I had a pleasing balance of everything.
Within the manuscript itself, I also had to decide on fonts and formatting. I wanted the fonts to be legible and pleasing to the eye. I also wanted the poems to stand out visually from the commentary text, but not contrast in a way that creates visual harmony. I tried to avoid a regimented placement of the poem on the page. Some poems are short and have room to find the right location on the blank page. A few are mischievous and want align to the right or hide at the bottom. Others are meditative and sit at the center of the page. With the few longer poems, I don’t want to have the page break in the middle of a verse, yet it needs to be visually clear that it is still the same poem that has leisurely taken up residence on several pages. Each poem has a personality and its placement should reflect that.
As the book nears completion, there are several further details necessary for publication. I have to purchase and register the ISBN number, so bookstores can carry it and the new book is recognized by the mainstream world of publishing and book distribution. That ISBN barcode has to be incorporated into the back cover of the book, as well. I have to confirm that the book’s formatting meets the printer’s requirements. After sending the files to the printer, I went through a couple of rounds of having them send me printed proof copies before the last minor issues were resolved.
And here we are! The challenges, unplanned delays, and extra work were all worth it. We now have a new book which I hope will inspire and delight. I am pleased to welcome it into the world!
This Dance of Bliss
Consider purchasing a pre-order copy of This Dance of Bliss in support of the Poetry Chaikhana!
And thank you to everyone for all of the encouragement and support along the way!