Making a Book

I’m happy to say I have a new book out–Gypsy Wisdom: New & Selected Poems (Park Place Publications)—and I thought I’d first let people know about it on my Facebook page, but, carried away with enthusiasm (it seems), I ended up posting a sort of mini essay in four parts, “Making a Book,” which might have been more appropriate for this blog, so … here’s that piece on Bill’s Blog.

I’ll take this “Upcoming Events” post a step further, because we are having a Book Launch concert at the Museum of Monterey Stanton Center Theater in Monterey on Saturday, July 25 (7:30 PM), featuring vocalist Jaqui Hope, bassist Heath Proskin, and yours truly on piano and reading the poems—and we hope to get Gypsy Wisdom: New & Selected Poems off to a good start that way. If folks hear the work—especially if sung (and I have set several of the poems to original music)—and like what they hear (I’ve had people tell me the music adds a rich and enjoyable dimension to the poems), they tend to want to make a purchase and take the book home with them, which is fine with me!

Here is the initial design I created for the cover of Gypsy Wisdom: New & Selected Poems (a design which included my own art work: an ink painting called “Goat Pan & Tree,” a woodcut print based on Ovid’s “Halcyon & Ceyx,” and an oil painting I did at Coney Island while an art student at Pratt Institute in 1955)—and alongside that, the cover Patricia Hamilton (Park Place Publications) and I finally decided on. And I’ll re-tell the four part story of how this project unfolded, right up to the point we’re at now: getting set for next Saturday’s Book Launch performance at the Museum of Monterey.

Gypsy Wisdom Cover             Gypsy Wisdom Final Cover

Making a Book, Part One: Patricia Hamilton–who has published two other books of mine: a comic novel, Trek: Lips, Sunny, Pecker and Me (2007) and The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir (2012)–and I had some solid sessions going over the text we’d send off to be made into a book (at CreateSpace)—and we had an interesting time tracking down a font I hoped to use for the title page and the titles of individual poems. I once worked as a real estate sign painter (back in the days when such signs were “planted” in vacant lots in my hometown), and I am familiar with a host of fonts, but, having seen exactly what I wanted on the cover of The Poems of Francois Villon: New Edition, translated by Galway Kinnell, I couldn’t find that font offered anywhere online. A friend suggested that, given its calligraphic style, it might have been “invented” by someone (as it would turn out) “concerned about the survival of calligraphy in the computer age.”

Following a fruitless search that took on the proportions of a quest for the Holy Grail, Patricia Hamilton and I were about to settle for an equivalent with which I was not wholly satisfied, when—lo and behold, solely by accident–I saw some “fine print” that read “Similar Fonts,” and that lead to Philip Bouwsma’s “Alexia,” the font employed on the cover of The Poems of Francois Villon (that 15th century French poet had become my “presiding spirit” over my own book project by now!). “Eureka!” I wrote Patricia: “I found it!”

Having a hand in shaping the look and feel of a book is nearly as engaging (exciting!) as providing the content or text itself, but next, I found myself at the most brutal stage of all: final proofreading—that “fun” stage when typos seem to pop up like gremlins, just to sport with the unappealable “product” like flies.

Once again, many thanks to Patricia for her technical savvy, good taste, unerring eye, empathy, and consistently cheerful disposition (she’s a joy to work with)! I looked forward to the best stage of the game: actually holding a printed copy of Gypsy Wisdom: New & Selected Poems in my hands!

Making a book: Part Two. The book—Gypsy Wisdom: New & Selected Poems—has been made (after a thorough proofreading of the text, several times—in spite of an ongoing “eyesight” situation: flickering, fluttering vision that makes the world I witness resemble a pulsating, Chaplin or Buster Keaton silent movie on occasion; see the past post “This Mild Yoke: A Writer’s Eyesight”) and copies are being printed as we speak. Hallelujah! And I have arranged a Book Launch event at the Stanton Center Theater in the Museum of Monterey on Saturday evening (7:30), July 25—an event that will have plenty of copies of the book on hand (for sale) and feature the “team” or troupe I’ve worked with “in concert” before, in performances that also combined spoken word and music: vocalist Jaqui Hope and bassist Heath Proskin.

The book would be “up” for sale on in a few days, described this way: “In this latest collection of poems, Gypsy Wisdom: New & Selected Poems, William Minor transforms and transcends subject matter (homage to parents, marital love, the death of friends, self-fulfillment, failure and success, a critique of one’s era, conceptions of heaven, aging, last words—and even such humble items as Q-tips) into skillfully crafted poems that will stand the test of time. The book ends with a brilliant, grateful, laugh-provoking parody of and homage to Francois Villon’s “The Testament,” in which William Minor contemplates the ‘gifts’ he would give back to the world—one of which is Gypsy Wisdom: New & Selected Poems.”

Here’s a flyer I designed to send out to people on a copious “mailing list” I have, and to post at various spots ’round town–and also a photo of “the author” taken while writing two of the poems in the book (“Bonaire” and “Bonaire Palm Sunday”) while on the Caribbean island of Bonaire itself:

Gypsy Wisdom MOM Flyer    Bonaire Bill Writing in Room2

Jaqui, Heath, and I gave a performance of some poems from the book I’d set to original music at the Cherry Center for the Arts in Carmel in mid-March, and that went very well. The Museum of Monterey event on July 25 will expand and enhance that presentation to include new work from Gypsy Wisdom. I’ll have more to say about another upcoming event (another reading I have been asked to give at Old Capitol Books in downtown Monterey on September 13, with poet Maggie Paul from Santa Cruz)—and I’ll post a couple of the poems from the book, and access to some pieces that can be found on YouTube.

It’s been a fine, rewarding road (or Way) up to this point, and I look forward to reading the poems for an audience and the joy of making music with Heath and Jaqui again, introducing Gypsy Wisdom: New & Selected Poems to the full house I’d love to see at the Museum of Monterey on July 25. Here are some photos of our Gypsy Wisdom troupe:

Jaqui, Heath and Me, Museum of Monterey  Jaqui Hope 2

Heath and Me    Pianist and author Bill Minor, center, with vocalist Jaqui Hope and bassist Heath Proskin in Pacific Grove, Calif. on March 24, 2013.  Photo By David Royal

Making a Book: Part Three. For the geographically-challenged who may not be able to make the Saturday July 25 Book Launch Concert, Gypsy Wisdom: New & Selected Poems is now available at (and I apologize for the horrendously long URL, but I can’t recall, at the moment, just how to access the book directly by way of the cover and a mouse!) And because I promised to post a poem or two from the book, and because this day is TBT (Throw Back Thursday) on Facebook, I’ll also include some photos that resonate with “For Betty,” a poem that’s not been in print (outside the book) until now.

Here are: 1956: my wife Betty and I, although not yet married, approaching my father’s Pontiac convertible–in which we “courted,” and which would deliver me to Willow Run Airport in Michigan, for a prop plane flight to Hawaii (crossing “The Point of No Return”), where Betty would join me four months later and we would get “hitched”; Betty with our kids, Steve and Tim, the latter proudly displaying one of Daddy’s woodcut prints when we lived next door to St. Ignatius Church on a small strip of McAllister Street in San Francisco; Betty and I in “full dress” (I had to rent the tux and cummerbund) before a Robbie Burns’ dinner when we came to Monterey, at which (having rehearsed for months for the sake of authenticity), I played piano and sang songs by the Bard (an authentic Scot sitting near Betty leaned over to someone and asked, “Who’s the Yank with the phony accent?”); and the two of us at a picnic in Monterey, toasting many faraway friends we missed at the time (and still do!); a shot of my “barber,” the person who’s cut my hear for 58 years (Betty!); and a photo of Betty getting some well-earned rest.

Betts and Bill leaving for Hawaii   Betts and Kids with Dad's Print

Betts and Bill in tux for Burns' dinner  Betts and Bill toasting friends

Betts giving Bill a haircut  Betts at Rest

For Betty

“ … sometimes on a rainy day/Just knowing you are/In the next room saves my life.” (Paul Zimmer)

No need to make a fuss about ourselves/ after fifty-eight years of marriage/ and sixty-eight years of solid friendship/. You spend your day in the garden,

on your knees in prayer there that way,/ while I spend mine supine in bed,/ writing, rejecting what I write, nursing/ my ailing eyes like a boxer between

title bouts. At night I watch baseball/ while you solve yet another murder/ mystery in the kitchen. The calendar/ lets us know whose night it is

to do the dishes; and we still sleep/ side by side in the same undulated bed./ Our life together has been anything but/ ordinary: shared with a host of artists,

writers, musicians, and great friends—/ and postcards we’ve sent home from/ Florence, London, Paris, Paros,/ Crete, Moscow, Riga, Odessa,

Osaka, Tokyo, and Bonaire: trips/ that occasioned books and poems,/ slide shows and living memories./ Our two children are now grown men

with wives of their own and adult children./ I like the predictable, stationary couple/ we’ve become, and our uncomfortable/ old age: just the right collection of afflictions

to keep us on (or off) our toes. I like/ the dance of grace and favor we’ve/ been given, and the ongoing story/ of what’s to come.

Again: grand “tech guy” that I am, I couldn’t find a way to set the poem up as it should be (with the original line breaks and stanzas). I’m disappointed, but I’ll have to confess, it does save space to present a poem this way!

Making a book: Part Four. Now the fun starts—distribution and getting set for the Book Launch event for Gypsy Wisdom: New & Selected Poems at the Museum of Monterey on Saturday, July 25.

I still enjoy addressing envelopes by hand, and I mailed 65 flyers to folks I hope will attend our event, along with the invitations sent out on Facebook. I’ve also taken copies of Gypsy Wisdom to two local bookstores: Old Capitol Books in Monterey and BookWorks in Pacific Grove. The book is available at (and we’ve even made the first sales there); and notice of the July 25 event has been posted on the Poetry Santa Cruz site (thanks Len Anderson!) and in Cedar Street Times in Pacific Grove (thanks Marge Ann Jameson!).

Bassist Heath Proskin, vocalist Jaqui Hope and I (piano) had a fine rehearsal last night, and we’re set to go for the July 25 “show” (offering the poems from Gypsy Wisdom I have set to original music–and I’ll read others). I’d like to re-post a YouTube video of Jaqui singing one of those poem/songs, “My Fingers Refuse to Sleep” ( ), along with our troupe doing “It’s a Wonderful World” (our “signature” song—just to give you further evidence of our musical flavor:; and a YouTube video, “Mandelstam and Minor” ( ), produced by my friend Bob Danziger, who liked a translation I did of a poem—“No, Never Was I Anyone’s Contemporary”—by the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam (also included in Gypsy Wisdom) and asked if I’d record it as a video (and include my own art work and that of Mandelstam’s era). And Heath Proskin and I doing another poem from the book, “Sandra Bullock,” can be found at: http://eat-

That’s a sampling of what we’ll be doing on the evening of July 25—and I’ll be sure to have ample copies of Gypsy Wisdom: New & Selected Poems on hand (for sale). If you’re close by, remember: Museum of Monterey Stanton Center Theater (5 Custom House Plaza, next to the wharf in Monterey: (831) 372-2608). If you’re not close by and unable to attend this event (this blog has reached people in 35 different nations around the world!)–I’ll be playing piano and reading the poems just for YOU!