After many frustrations and failures, I finally bound five acceptable versions of A Talking Blue Smell, my creepy poetry manuscript that I never want to see again — two in Coptic binding, three in Codex. They piled up slowly, over what seems like a long long time in retrospect. Yesterday, I suddenly realized I could pack them up and mail them to unsuspecting friends and family, so I did (sorry, guys). 

What a weight off my mind. If I had known this lightness of mind was just around the corner, I would have mailed them a whole lot sooner.

The thing is that now I’m thinking how sick I am of A Talking Blue Smell and never want to see it again and what new project can I start, please?

Erm, I don’t think things work that way. Binding five different versions of your own manuscript does not a publication make, dude. You can’t just discard it and move on to fresher things.

Suck it up and go peddle that manuscript. Like everyone else.

Book-binding is still fun, though.

bookbinding tools (2)


These are some of my bookbinding tools. The white thing lying diagonally across the left is my bone folder. It’s not for folding bones, as one might be forgiven for thinking. Some pictures of different kinds of bone folders here, and this helpful text:

These variously-shaped pieces of bone are used for functions such as smoothing, scoring, and creasing paper and cloth, and working materials into tight corners. The bone folder is polished to a smooth finish to avoid damaging the materials it is used to manipulate, but with sufficient (or excessive) pressure its edge is sharp enough to cut paper or cloth. This cutting function of the tool can be either handy and deliberate or unfortunate and accidental.

Across the top of the picture are the five brass rules I got the other day, which I am more in love with than ever. In the middle, four different shades of waxed Irish linen binder’s thread, with a curved sewing needle stuck in one of the spools. The thing on the bottom left with a wooden handle is a Japanese screw punch, which has interchangeable punchers and punches the most beautiful holes in whatever you want in whatever size you choose. (One might lean in the course of things towards thinking there is not much in a hole, but one would be very wrong.) And the very sharp-looking thing on the bottom right with a wooden handle is my awl.


These are four versions of A Talking Blue Smell, my protean poetry manuscript which changes its nature every time it gets bound. The top and bottom ones are Codex bindings (with actual book cloth used for the top one) and the two middle ones are Coptic bindings.

bookbinding tools


are beautiful, and yes, I know I’ve said that already. Today I got a set of five brass rules designed to “save you endless time measuring joints between boards, turn-ins and all kinds of standard measuring tasks. They are as beautiful as they are functional,” the blurb says, quite truthfully. “Precision cut 12″ brass rules come in a set of 5 widths: 1/8″, 1/4″, 1/2″, 3/4″ and 1″.”

It’s not a good photo at all, they look much nicer than that and it’s true, they make SUCH a difference.

My Codex bindings are getting better, by the way. Slowly.

paper intoxication

kozo banana mulberry mango leaf tamarind bark papyrus mulberry lokta are just some of the things paper is made of. You can buy Thai mango paper, Thai tamarind, Nepalese lokta, Indian paper, lace paper, marbled paper, papyrus and bark paper among many many other insane choices. Who knew.


This is Thai mango paper, olive. Who could know even where to begin to think about starting with such a mad array of choices, but I thought this might be a possible place, since I’d like to bind a poem in its own book, where the book is part of the poem. My initial sense is that Thai mango paper, olive, has a poem in it. We’ll see when it gets here in the mail.

BV 1000, aak

I’m tired of binding and re-binding my poetry manuscript. I need a different text to set and bind.  BV 1000’s Story of Kintu would be perfect, but it still needs at least another hundred lines. At least.

Time to put the BV hat back on, wouldn’t you say. 

Finally put together a halfway decent Codex binding. Hah!

a talking blue smell



OK, we’re getting somewhere. Here’s my latest attempt at a Coptic binding. I’m practising with A Talking Blue Smell, which is my poetry manuscript. Its contents change each time I reset the text for a different kind of binding. I haven’t made a title label for this copy yet.

I’m now working on a regular Codex binding which, as my bookbinding book says, “is the type of book that we generally think of when we imagine a book. The signatures are sewn together at the spine, and they’re protected by a hard cover on the front, spine and back.”

My favorite part is the sewing. There’s something very satisfying about sewing thick paper with waxed linen thread and a curved needle.

Bookbinding tools are beautiful. I want a sewing frame for Christmas, everyone.

I wrote a poem for my little brother and bound it in its own little book and mailed it to him. It said things I should have said to him years ago. I hope it was a good idea.