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Bookstories 16: Sabine Miller’s bee dance

libraryofbabelEvery book tells its story, but what of the other story, the story behind the book? Bookstories offers an opportunity to tell that story. If you have a story about a book or poem you would like to share, contact us and we’ll help you make it happen. Thanks for letting us know the rest of the story!


In the early 2000s, vince tripi was living in Novato, California, about a forty-minute drive from my rented cabin in Lagunitas. We corresponded for a while; his imaginative poems had awakened me to the possibilities of haiku, and I’d made him my mentor. I was too sick with Lyme to travel much, so he borrowed his roommate’s car and visited me a few times before moving East. I showed him the land, its peach and apple trees, paper wasp and hawks’ nests, and field of—my favorite—columbine, in ten different colors with beetle egg sacs stuck to the petals. His poem “monk and i” was inspired by the log bridge over Arroyo Creek, adjacent to the backyard, where I watched salmon spawn nine autumns in a row.

I don’t remember how he got the idea to start a series of pinch books; maybe it was from Longhouse Books’s folded broadsides, which look similar. But I remember that he wanted to work with artisan Ed Rayher of Swamp Press, and that he wanted me to be the first author because I was so new to haiku. I gave him lots of poems, I don’t know, maybe thirty. He liked four. He suggested changes for three more. Reading the poems, you can hear his influence.

vince chose beautiful colors and glued the books himself. Then I wrapped and inscribed them, using the pen to touch up my “bee” on the cover. I didn’t like it, had wanted to go with a more elegantly rendered ant and call the book a line of ants, but that had apparently been done. (I also at one point had the brilliant idea of calling it paper wasp.) Plus, vince suggested that people like bees. So bee dance it was, heralded by a perfect, stationary fly.

Since then I’ve moved several times: into town, then to Tucson, and then back to this town near San Fransisco, temporarily sandwiched between the highway and some old railroad tracks you can follow to the mall (with the traffic thoroughfare directly beyond). This summer the tracks will be ripped out and paved over, transformed into a smartrail . . . a far cry from salmon runs at Arroyo Creek. I am so grateful to vince for his initiative, for giving me something to give—not only to editors who had encouraged me and to other poets in the series, with whom I traded books—but also to my immediate community. Though my copy has been in storage for almost a decade, occasionally a local will tell me that they still have theirs, and for that moment it feels like home.

—Sabine Miller

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Hello Sabine!
    Have you been to Cashmere in the North if India in 1989? If so, we met before. And we exchanged quite a few letters so many years ago. Then, I lost track of answering your last letter. Sorry.
    I would like to resume our pen-friendship. If you like, please send me your current mail address. Thank you!
    Alternatively (and only as an option, not as a request, because it clearly is my turn to write since a long time), you could write to me: Christopher Brandt, Klosterallee 55, 20144 Hamburg, Germany. (It will change to Parkallee 55, 20144 Hamburg in late 2022, early 2023.)
    Best regards,

  2. Thanks for the comments. Peter, I’d love for you to get a hard copy to vince. I would myself, but I don’t have a printer, technologies not far exceeding those of my mentors 🙂

  3. ‘Pinch Books’! What a great name for a series of craft books.
    Maybe someone else reading, perhaps Vince himself, has something more to tell us about the series: how many were published, what were the titles, and by whom? Please send me any such details via my email in the Haiku Registry.

    The Digital Library would be very grateful to receive any spare copies from this series for preservation through digitization and to add to our hard copy library.

    Thanks Sabine!


  4. Sabine,

    So glad to read this. I’ll have to share it with vince if he hasn’t seen it himself. He is, as you might suspect, somewhat low-tech. vince has been an inspiration of mine for many years now. And a good friend. He lives within an hour’s drive of me in central Massachusetts.

    I wish you all the best.

  5. Dear Sabine, I enjoyed your story and hope you are well. Books by vincent tripi were among the first I ordered, in the mid-1990s; after I subscribed to Modern Haiku. What an honor to be the first poet in the pinch book series. Blessings, Ellen

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