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Bookstories 18: Mike Dillon’s the road behind

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 2001, after 15 or so years of having my haiku published in various magazines, I wrote Jim Kacian at Red Moon Press inquiring if he would be open to seeing a manuscript from me. The reply came in the affirmative: the road behind was published in June 2003.

Along the way, I had experienced no epiphany in terms of publishing a book. The book was the fruit of a slow, accumulative process, in which I was learning (I am still learning) how to write haiku. If “Ripeness is all,” then the time was ripe. Using the progress of the seasons as a backdrop, I winnowed a couple hundred published haiku down to 71. For good measure, I added two short, Chinese-style “regular” poems and a haibun.

When I slipped the manuscript into the 9″x12″ manila envelope addressed to Red Moon Press, it felt a little like a lock clicking shut, sweetly. I remember thinking: I don’t know how good it is, but it counts for something.

The production process provided another one of those just-right sensations. The first cover that Jim sent was fine—a bucolic farm scene illustrated in thick, woodblock-style lines that evoked a panel from some 19th Century Book of Hours. I would have used it in other circumstances, but it didn’t seem to fit the contents, of which my percipient sister later noted was tinged with “existential loneliness.”

I asked him to consider something a little more abstract.

The second iteration hit the sweet spot: an illustration by abstract expressionist Barnett Newman, master of the vertical line running down a canvas, whose work carries spiritual undertones.

In the proposed cover, a faint line, thick as a narrow path or road, ran down the middle of an olive-gray color field. I found the new cover a remarkable intuitive leap. The line was barely discernible, like a faint whisper. Some might miss the line altogether; others, with right attention, would see and grasp it.

The whole process reminded me there are those in the publishing world with their tambourines to the window, catching our ripples upon the ether, who are in the service of something other than the pursuit of riches and who act on their judgments.

A kind of small miracle in itself.

—Mike Dillon

This Post Has One Comment

  1. It is evident you are a poet just in your letter here. Thank you for sharing and inspiring others to do the same. June

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