Bookmaking: Titling Your Collection



My biggest struggle in creating the book was the title. What would I call such a massive representation of self? I had been tongueing several poems in a chapbook for submissions, which I was calling With Skepticism, but that was not a fair representation of me, nor was it a good reference for poems that might be several years old. I wanted something that would be good for all levels, something complex enough to carry the collection yet simple enough to give instant recognition.

I chose Lucid Dreaming.

Then I looked into the steps of lucid dreaming and bent them to be more pleasing to the eye. Those became the 10 chapter headings that made the sections for the work.

You could choose anything: The stages of a tree, the layers of the earth, the counties in your home-state, obscure eras of history, types of birdcages, parts of the hand. Anything. As long as it gives a representation of your writing. And not just your poems.

Once there, revisit that list. I talked about this a little last time, but this is where you get to really tackle those poems. I placed my ten title pages on the list, giving each section about 5-6 poems. Remember you will need blank pages and title pages too. That mapped out the space for me.

Since the document is all mixed up (to allow for signatures) you will need to determine what goes on each page ahead of time to keep everything in order (if you don’t care, skip this step—randomness is next to godliness).

The title was important because it was me. It was everything I was writing about, it was all represented in some way. The darkness, the silliness, the bright and the obscure. I could find a niche for all my oddities, which helped me organize the poems later.

Why title?

Well, there’s nothing wrong with ‘collected poems’ but it feels old-worldly, post-humus and serious. If that represents you, then sure. But if not, then take this opportunity to control your work.

In this space I talk a lot about poet-intent and authorial-control. When the poem is in the universe, all control is forfeit. We know that. There aren’t posters featuring your work with a sound bite of you yelling from a speaker box to help the readers understand. You are meaningless, and so is your intended takeaway. So act with intent now. Edit! Revise! Swap with a Friend! and please, above all, Title! Title your work, title your collections, title so that we know you didn’t forget to.

Titles are like underwear.

Yes, you can go out without them and have a pretty good day, but they make you feel better and have been proven to be pretty hygienic. If you never wear underwear, you may want to consider a lifestyle change, if you always wear weird underwear with complicated ribbons and bows and bells and charms you may want to consider a career change (just kidding). But seriously, they are important, titles anyway.


Set the tone,

Focus the content.

Aid in understanding

Polish the look of a piece,

Address the reader indirectly

Give a starting point

(and last but not least)

Allow for the addition of information that either did not fit in the piece or does not belong in the piece as it stands.

We see this all the time, poems that are made better (or worse) by a title that has nothing to do with the poem. But for better or worse we are in tune more with the content now that we have been gifted with the insight.

Poems that are stellar with their titles:

“this is just to say”

“in a station of the metro” – which makes the couplet into a haiku

“the love song of j Alfred prufrock”

—I’m a bit of a postmodernist, but the list goes on. Even Whitman’s “Song of Myself” which could not have been edited more or contain more contend, was improved with the title.

I’ll conclude this rant with a thought. Poems titled or not, are you comfortable with your life’s (so far) work being summed up with a generic verb like collected or selected? If not, then title things now, when you can, and when you are long gone and famous, people will honor you with the words you chose to designate yourself, paying respect to your authorial intent.

Keep Writing and I’ll be back soon for more on the bookmaking process!



Bookmaking: Organizing Your Content

Dear Poets,

Hello and thank you to all the new followers for taking an interest in this brainspace. Let’s travel back to a post from almost a month ago and talk about setting up a book from the ground up. I had some photos of my experience and talked a little about my epiphany but otherwise, there wasn’t much direction for you.


So let’s make things a little more practical.


I started with a list. My poetry collection is a little over 100 poems now, but that’s not a true number. Most of them I would never use, many others are far from finished. Some of them are pretty close to being ready and others I have submitted before. In order to reign in that group I started with a list.


In this post I talk about making your poems visible with a master-sheet. Mine was done in excel, which was a breeze. I recommend having a line for the title, date and revised date (at least). If you are at the point where you are submitting these works, you might want to have those dates and journals listed so you can keep track.



Back to the book – I knew I wanted this to feel like a book, so it was important to have bump pages (blank pages that serve as space fillers, like in a novel at the start and the end).Suddenly the book that was 72 pages was actually 70. Keep this in mind, as you will not want a book that is cover to cover poems.

You will need:

A title page

Chapter heads

Blank pages inside to separate them

For me, I wanted all chapter heads on the right side, so some additional blank pages were needed for those.


Then I started making a key:

I numbered a piece of paper, designating blank pages, chapter heads and how many poems should go in each. It was really just guess work at that point.

I wanted 10 chapters and each chapter therefore had 5-6 poems. I was not strict in the first round since I knew I would lose my mind going in and messing with the pages. There was time for that later, during the layout.

I also decided I didn’t want poems to take 2 pages. It was too hard to manage them in the word layout. That would be up to you, depending on how complicated you wanted to project to be.

Then, I simply went poem by poem and put it on a page line (or not). I knew I wanted certain poems to face each other—evens on the Left, odds on the Right—and others I wanted to begin or end a chapter. That was about a meticulous as I got in planning. Otherwise things just landed where they felt right.

For me – The poem number as well as the title help define my work. In my list I have mostly numbers. I was able to better locate them that way. Poem numbers are important in my collection, though this might not be a factor for you. Maybe they are color coded or separated by theme; keep this in mind as it will add character and interest to the collection as a whole. We are not talking about just single pieces, but as a full representation of your work. That means there will be a bigger picture to consider.

I’ll be back soon to talk about Titles!

Keep Writing and start Booking!

Bookbinding 2: Make your Bed.

Hello Readers, 

The bookbinding post was so wildly popular that I decided to also include some images and tips from my journal-making experience. 

If you’re anything like me, poetry is a great love, but not the only love. I also enjoy painting. For me, poetry is the waking art, the one I try for, the one I perfect. Painting, or other types of visual designs, are the absent art, the one I do to calm me, in persuit of ambient inspiration. For some people this ambient art is music, others just go for a jog. It made sense to make a space where I could do both, write and paint, in a non-invasive way. For that, I needed paper that would not curl under water-color or buckle under acrlic. So I needed a cold press journal. And I would have to make that. 


Here are my thoughts on journals, now that I’ve made one:

1. Making a journal is personal. I get to pick the cover (paper used was from Paper Source, which just opened a store in Las Vegas) and make the pages from the type of paper I need. I wanted to have something I could paint, and so I didn’t need to spend $30 on a bound book or have loose sheets. I also got to decide how large I wanted it, which is something I always struggle with when choosing a book that always ends up having too many pages.

2. Building a book is like making your bed. It’s yours. I strongly believe that poetry is a vertical experience. We have an experience and then we write about it. But what if it was more than that. The experience was one you personally had, and then you thought about it, and wrote that poem in your own journal, that you made with your hands. First hand account on your own piece of art. It’s almost poetic and we haven’t started writing yet!

3. Poetry Gets Hands On. In my last post about bookbinding I talked about poems being very removed for me. I had forgotten how much I love writing things by hand. I miss writing and not typeing. I miss the permanence, even in draft form, of pen. It seems delliberate. It seems real. It also takes a hands-on experience to sew a book. There are awl punches and dangling needles and fidgety cardboard. It’s not always the simplest task, but it’s real. 

I find that I write different things when I plan to paint beside them. My poems really do conform them to their space. I tend not to write onto a second page or go outside the lines. I wonder what that says about me as a poet, about what poetry does to the spaces it encounters. 

So here are the numbers. 

$10 for the pages and cover (all in one of those artist pads at Michaels) – I only used half of the pages, it was just too many once they were all folded. 

$3 for the cover paper from Paper Source, they have lots of kinds 

$3 Rubber Cement

$0 for the inner paper and the pocket (I already had some scrapbook paper, it was in a pack of cardstock paper)

$6 for the hemp string (Paper Source), but there were 100’s of feet of it, and I’ll surely use it again! 

And I watched the same video by SeaLemon, which was helpful for the poetry book, and super great for the journal. (I used half of the paper, since water color paper is super thick when cold pressed). 

TIPS: The video will not show you how to cover the book with paper. It’s super easy. Take the cardboard and cover one side with a thin layer of rubber cement. Let dry. Take the paper and also apply a thin layer of rubber cement and let dry. Bring together. The dry rubber cement will stick better and faster than wet glue or wet rubber cement. Repeat for inner side.


For the corners, cut the extra cover paper to 1″ from the board. Then fold in the triangle of the corner, sticking with dried rubber cement on both sides. Then, fold over the 1″ margin once you have applied rubber cement on both the board and the paper and let dry. You’ll be amazed! For the inside, I used a piece of paper 1″ shorter than the board in height and length, affixed the same way as the other paper. 

Make sure that the holes are punched through the cardboard first and then later through the paper as you cover the sides. That way, you will have an easier time getting through the thick material, and it will be cleaner when finished.

That’s all for now. I hope you all make a journal and love it and fill it with hand crafted poetry goodness. 
Keep Writing, Start Binding!


Bookbinding: Skills a Poet Needs

Hello Readers,

Sorry I have been a little absent. My dear friend started a literary journal where I am an editor and I started a new job at the reference desk at my library (yay adulthood!). In other words, like all of you out there in internet land, I don’t know where the time goes, but it must be lost in the couch, with the spare change from my jean pockets and all the good intentions I had of being more productive.

I had the pleasure of celebrating the fiftieth birthday of a former art teacher this past week and was wracked with what to get her. What do you make the person who first inspired you to be an artist? Well, you give her some art.

That’s what everyone else did. She got paintings and photos and sculptures. Her party was a painting party where we all made a small canvas she organized as a mural. It was pretty epic.

I decided to challenge myself and make a Coptic stitch book of my poems. For some reason I thought this would be easy. I was, of course, deeply wrong. Coptic stitch is hard, but thankfully the internet is full of tutorials including a Poets and Writers Chapbook Tutorial with pictures and a wonderful bookmaker named Sea Lemon and her perfectly simple Coptic Stitch video.  It was pretty do-able.

Here are some photos from my experience: coptic-stitch-book-images

My puppies are in the middle: one curious, one bored.

The book was fun. I ended up making four of them: one for my teacher, one for my mom, one for my grandmother on my father’s side and one for my grandfather on my mother’s side. I found making them in two’s took minimally more time and made for a quicker learning curve.

All Poets Should Bind Books. 

There were some key things I had never thought about before this project that I know made me more selfaware.

1. Books are Big.

I normally group my poems in families of ten or fifteen. In fact, I was unable to actually fill the space P&W wanted in the book (72 pages). Instead, I made it work with headers and bump (blank) pages. I had no idea how much content was needed to fill an actual book, and now I will look at my collection (which I thought was huge) with more humility.

2. Organization is a Challenge

The book was too big. So I decided to make it up into 10 smaller books of five or six poems each. This took up several pages and also allowed me to subdivide the collection into smaller groups. But what would they be? What theme? What order? I imagined they would all fit together, but no, they are all over the place, I have no theme for my collection.

3. Stuff Doesn’t Fit Well

I have been hanging on the idea of ‘skepticism’ in my earlier chapbooks. The poems that I chose went along with this sense of surprise in ordinary moments, but that didn’t go very deep into the collection. I was in need of something different, something bigger.

The collection is called Lucid Dreaming, and the books are named after the ten-ish steps of actually having a lucid dream. 

I needed to take a step back and think about what would fit the whole group rather than just the ten books individually. It made me think of writing essays in college, picking a topic big enough, with enough depth and content to get a 20 page paper out without being redundant. Lucid dreaming was actually something I go pretty good at during college and looking back it fits the poems perfectly. It is both tangible and ephemeral, with a strong sense of self and no sense of place, just like the voice in most of my poems.

It was also unrelated enough to inform the poems without stealing their thunder. It cradled the poems that seem stranger than reality and made fantastic the poems that are too near to reality. I had to step outside my own mindset to make the poems work together.

4. Real Life is Messy

It’s been a while since I was wrist deep in rubber cement. I had forgotten how gritty reality can be. Poetry, for me, had become this alternate, bodiless at times, existance with a shiny screen and a slick clicking keyboard. It wasn’t real. It meandered from my mind onto a surface I could neither touch nor fathom. But books are real. And so are sewing needles and paper cuts and spilled glue and knotted up thread. It was a rush of reality to my otherwise unworldly typings, a long overdue splash of life.


Books are beautiful.


Sewing is like the lungs when the breath absent-mindedly.


I had no idea how satisfying and deeply moving making my own books would be. I am obsessed. I encourage you all to either look at these tutorials or consider making books on your own. It made me reconsider what poetry means for me, and what I want to be as a poet. Plus holding a book of you is a sobering feeling.