The first set of page proofs for HAPPY LIFE arrived here via a FedEx truck on the afternoon of Friday, April 1st. I had to leave on a short poetry performance trip on Monday afternoon, which meant I had less than three days to get them back in the mail to Port Townsend. It’s like Duke Ellington said, the greatest boon to creativity is a deadline.

I set to work on them immediately Friday afternoon. What came in the package from Copper Canyon Press was David Caligiuri’s copy-edited manuscript and the first set of page proofs, meaning that for the first time I saw the book set in the type that was going to be used for the book and also how the poems would be laid out on the page. The font for this book is Minion for the body of the text and Woodland for display. Display is the term for headlines, titles and so forth; in this case for the titles of the poems.

Each page is still 8.5 by 11 inches, but it has little marks at the four corners showing the limits of the page top and bottom, left and right. The size for HAPPY LIFE will be 5.5 by 9 inches in order to make it consistent with the previous two books, MOMENT TO MOMENT: POEMS OF A MOUNTAIN RECLUSE and WHILE WE’VE STILL GOT FEET. The three books will make a matched set.

Page proofs give everyone involved a chance to compare the copy-edited manuscript to the actual layout of the book to see what the typesetters may have missed. There is almost always nothing—the typesetters are very good at what they do—but also almost always something. This time around there was in one poem a place where the typesetters had not hit the carriage return and two lines were run together as one.

And there was one place where I found a mistake no one else had caught. On p. 12: the last letter in Po Chu-I—sorry I can’t make the umlaut in Chu—is supposed to be lower case, as per David Caligiuri’s note on the copy-edited manuscript and as per elsewhere in the manuscript.  In other words: Po Chu-i not Po Chu-I.

Other than those two obvious errors, there was little else except in one poem, “Three Days in New York”—the longest poem in the book and the longest lined poem in the book also—a number of the lines were too wide for this particular design and they had to be run over and indented. I like to custom make my poems for the design of the book so that there are none of those too-wide line run-overs. It’s no great tragedy that this one poem will have run over lines, but it is something I like to avoid and I should have asked about it long before now when it is too late.

The only things missing now are the artist’s credits, the cataloguing in publication data for the acknowledgments page and the text and layout for the back cover.

In short, I went over the page proofs four times, carefully comparing the type-set proofs to the copy-edited manuscript, packed both page proofs and copy-edited manuscript up and had them back in the mail to Copper Canyon Press by Monday afternoon on my way to southern New Hampshire for a couple of days of poetry performances.


One of the great things about working with Copper Canyon Press is that they want the author involved in choosing cover art. They want the author to be happy with the cover. This is not always the case. I published two books, a long time ago, with a large New York house. The first one had drawings in it. I wrote to my editor and asked if I could see the drawings to confirm that they accurately portrayed what the stories in the book said. I was told that they would be happy for me to review the art, all I needed to do was come to New York—a seven hour drive—during the three days the art would be in the offices and I could have a look. This tough-guy attitude, I am happy to say, is not the way Copper Canyon Press does business.


While we were still going back and forth about what would be in the manuscript, my editor, Michael Wiegers, asked me to send in some ideas for cover art. Early in November 2010 I sent him 21 possibilities. They included numerous ancient Chinese landscape paintings; here are just two, the first by Hsia Kuei (c. 1190-1230), the second by Chang Feng (1645-1673).

I also sent numerous ensos painted by my wife, Lois Eby, one example of which is:


And I sent some of Lois’ more improvisatory paintings, such as



These paintings are 5 of the 21 I originally sent. Michael asked me to narrow it down to half a dozen, which I did, choosing only the ancient Chinese landscapes and a number of Lois’ ensos.


After a few weeks we got back 6 possible covers, all of them, much to our surprise, using Lois’ improvisatory paintings, the ones I’d eliminated in cutting down to 6.


On February 8th Copper Canyon Press sent 5 choices of designed covers combining art with text. Here are 2 of the 5.




We went back and forth over the 5 choices, then settled on the one below. After we’d decided on a design there was still some adjustment to background color, type faces and font size for the type and then: done.



As soon as this was completed, the designer. Valerie Brewster (, set to designing the interior of the book.


More about that and what comes next, next time.

David Budbill

March 20, 2011


I’ve been working on David Caligiuri’s copy edit of my manuscript for HAPPY LIFE.

Is it going to be hard-hat or hard hat? How do you spell caddis fly (sp)? Where do we use a one-n dash and where a one-m dash? What words get hyphenated? Do we use a different font for the epigraphs? Do we spell it 1200 or twelve-hundred and if the answer is 1200, then is it 1200 or 1,200? And so forth and so forth and so forth. Every page of the copy-edited manuscript is covered with red ink.

Here are a few of paragraphs from my cover letter to Valerie Brewster (, the book’s designer and guide through the labyrinth from manuscript to book:

In two cases, p. 23 & 23A and p. 47 & 47A, I needed to rebreak lines because of edits/changes. Thus on p. 23A find stanza two from p. 23, as the lines should now run. And on p. 47A find the entire poem from p. 47 with the lines rebroken and corrections made. All other changes are on the pages themselves.

I have a question about the colon and the word that follows a colon. Is that word, the word that follows a colon, always capitalized, sometimes capitalized, what? What’s the rule? Is there a rule? On page 40 I’m hoping we can make all three of those Japanese words lower case. If you will go to pages 56, 62 and 64 you will find uses of the colon followed by a word whose initial letter is lower case. Do we need to be absolutely consistent? If not, then I hope we can on p.40, stanza 3, change Shu to shu. (Or leave all three, Shu, Ha and Ri: capitalized.)

A question on p. 72: why is Northern California capitalized but not northern Vermont.

A question about Oh and O: On page 64, David Caligiuri—the copy editor, about whom I wrote on December 7th—suggests O in place of Oh; yet on pages 27 (x7), 36, 43, 44 (x2), 59 and possibly elsewhere, it’s Oh. Is this an inconsistency?

And on and on.

If you don’t love these kinds of questions, maybe you don’t love being a writer.

So the manuscript—one of a kind—is in the hopefully capable hands of FedEx and on it’s way from the mountains of northern Vermont to Copper Canyon Press, located in Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend, Washington, literally the furthest west place on the west coast of the United States.

Next comes the page proofs and the last chance to make any substantial, but not too substantial, changes. At the same time that this is going on, the actual book is being designed. What’s the widest line in the book? The answer to that question will determine the point size for the font which also has to be chosen.

I hope by this point I’ve made sure that all the poems in the manuscript will fit on a single page without any run-over lines. There are some exceptions to this for a few, but only a few, multi-page poems. If there are some lines that do run over, then I will go back and rebreak all the lines in that poem and hope, hope, hope the new way they are broken still fits on the page.

And what will the cover look like? Months ago I sent in some suggestions for cover art. (see entry for December 7, 2010) Will the designers use one of my suggestions? Probably they will. Copper Canyon Press likes its authors to be in on and active in the whole design process.

How will the cover art fit with the type on the cover? What style or styles of fonts will be used on the cover? What colors will the cover have? What will the back cover have for text? What quotes will there be from famous authors about Budbill’s work? Will there be a blurb about the book’s contents, a teaser to make you want to look inside.

Cover design is critically important because as every book designer knows—all the rest of us know too—you CAN judge a book by it’s cover, or at least the cover is the first impression anyone will ever have of your book.

The questions are nearly endless, but they are not endless. Eventually all the questions will be answered and there will really be a book in the world with a publication date of early September 2011.

And in the end—which makes me think of the Beatles line- -and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. It’s true for making a book as well.

More about all this when the page proofs arrive here. In the meantime, stay tuned for something about the cover and cover art which is up next.


December 7, 2010


I’m about to send off the manuscript for my new book of poems, HAPPY LIFE, which will be published by Copper Canyon Press in September of next year. I hope I’m done with it this week. My editor and I have settled on the poems that will be in the book and in what order and now all I’ve got to do is write the front matter—the half-title page, other works by David Budbill page, title page, copyright page, epigraph page (I’ve got two for this book, one by a Taoist hermit in China whose name is Hsu-tung and the other by the 18th century Japanese poet and tea maker, Baisao), The acknowledgements page, dedication page, and table of contents. Then at the very end of the book there’s a short “about the author page,” which is a short biography of sorts. After all that front and back matter is in place and I’ve gone through the poems for the umpteenth time, I’ll send the manuscript off to my editor, both electronically and a hardcopy, so that the design and production process can begin.

I’ve already sent off a number of possibilities for cover art for the book. I picked about a dozen possibilities, with a great deal of help from my wife,  Lois Eby, who is a painter. Some of the possibilities are abstract, ensos and so forth, and some are landscapes from ancient Chinese painters. It’ll be interesting to see what the designer comes up with. It’s important to give the designer free reign because she’s the one who knows what image will go best with the kind of type and layout the cover of the book will have

And while the book is being designed—Copper Canyon Press, in my opinion, by the way, has the best book designers in the business.—the manuscript itself will be shipped out to the greatest copy editor of all time, David Caligiuri. David will go through my manuscript with a kind of attention to detail it’s impossible for ordinary mortals to imagine. He’ll track down every reference; check all the grammar and syntax, make sure all the spelling and capitalization are consistent throughout the book. Nothing escapes David Caligiuri’s eye for the minutest detail. I’ve been lucky enough to have my manuscripts go through the Caligiuri baptism by fire before and I can tell you, when a manuscript comes out of his sweat lodge you know it’s cleansed.

I’ve been working on this manuscript for more than a year. It took me more than six years to make the poems. Up until now this has been pretty much my book, then it became the creation of my editor and me as we decided which poems would get cut, which poems stay and in what order. We began with almost 200 pages of poems; we are now down to just a little over 100 pages of poems.

Now the number people working on this book enlarges from two of us to many: book designers, copy editor, sales staff, shipping clerks and so on. And all this so that a new book called HAPPY LIFE can be available for purchase by September 2011

Sincerely, David






Here’s the text for the back cover:

David Budbill continues a wry, joyful examination of life on his semi-
metaphorical Judevine Mountain, writing about the New England
seasons, fame and fortune, self-reliance, aging, and the engaged
creative life. Profoundly simple and immediate, Budbill’s poems radiate
a dialogue with nature through absolute clarity of expression.

Yet and still every day the sun rises,

white clouds roll across the sky,

vegetables get planted and grow,

and late in the afternoon

someone sits quietly with a cup of tea.

“His poetry is as accessible as a parking lot and as plain as a pair of


“A recognizable immediacy and honesty, accompanied by an endearing
wit… Budbill’s economical, brush-stroke approach… evinces a hard-won
clarity, a pure, human tone.”

—Library Journal

“One of the most readable American poets ever.”



HAPPY LIFE spent 27 weeks on the Poetry Foundation’s

Best Seller List between July 2011 and January 2012



David Budbill is a no-nonsense free-range sage.

Dana Jennings
The New York Times, 20 December 2011

. . . warm and accessible poems that grow out of the poet’s experience
and his meditations on who he is and how he found himself over the
last forty years . . . clear language, his wry, self – effacing humor and
his humble recognition of all the poets to whom he owes his poetry. . .

Michael Macklin
The Cafe Review, Fall 2011

The art of ‘Budbill’s poems is created by the absence of any artistic
pretense. . . . HAPPY LIFE is a simple pleasure, offered by a master
Christina Cook
Northern Woodlands, Winter 2011

Budbill’s hermit writes in straightforward but poetic language about
the paradoxes of being alive. . . . As always, he is funny, pointed
even, in a sardonic way. . . . The defining terms of Budbill’s vision
[is] the tension between worldly desire and quiet wisdom, the intent
to be here now. It requires both self-awareness and a touch of self-
deprecation … or, at least, the ability to see yourself plain.

David Ulin
Los Angeles Times, 1 August 2011

The poems are as clear, as crisp and direct as ever . . . Often they are
laced with a sharp, self-deprecating wit.

Tom Slayton
Vermont Public Radio, 6 October 2011

In impeccably clear and accessible language: [Budbill] ruminates on
the satisfaction he gets from flowing with life’s natural rhythms and
living within his means—not only economically, but also artistically
and spiritually . . . his poems . . . frequently call into question the
demands of contemporary life. Nothing in them seems extraneous . . .
—there aren’t any metaphors—and you get the sense that he knows
what really matters . . .

Shannon Wagner,

Ploughshares Literary Magazine, 24 January 2012

Wiseass, grumpy and soul-nourishing poems.

Shelf Awareness, the top of the top ten, 7 December 2011

Selected Interviews
September 19: Interview with Shelagh Shapiro on her show WRITE
THE BOOK (53:00):

October 28: Interview with Peter Biello on Vermont Public Radio,
Morning Edition, (8:15), listen at:


Selected Blog Posts

August 6: Which Silk Shirt: Exploring Poetry and Other Fine Writing

August 9: foundcommunity blog:

November 21: Santa Cruz (CA) Good Times: http://