Like Books? Bored? Possibly Psychic? Try Bibliomancy!

Bibliomancy is the art of divining the future through randomly selecting book passages. Due to my own bookish nature, I was playing this game long before I realized it was actually something like and arcane art. Pick up a book, pick a random part to read, think about what it means. Surprise! You are actually practicing real fortune telling. Technically, there’s a bit more to it than that, but if you have books and enough time on your hands, you’re already mostly there.

When I was younger, I would call this game, “talking to the books.” I’d flip to a page with my eyes closed and read the passage my finger landed on, usually out of it’s original context, and see if I could carry on a “conversation” with a book in that way. When one book got too nonsensical or seemed to stop working, I’d pick up another and start “talking” to them. It was a silly game for a silly, over imaginative girl that needed to go outside more, or else find some real, non-paperback friends. That’s what I always told myself anyway.

Then, once I stumbled across the concept of bibliomancy years later, I realized that silly game was most likely my subconscious training me to unlock my dormant psychic powers. Either that, or most fortune telling systems are simple game-like rule sets created by desperate and/or bored people to make sense of this crazy world. Probably I was secretly psychic though.

Since I have secretly trained myself for years in this art, I figure why not give my audience of fellow book-lovers some tips, a fun little game to try with your books, or possibly an ancient mystic art. Go ahead, try it! what’s the worst thing that could happen?

I looked up additional rules for bibliomancy online, just to make sure I was doing it right, and it turns the most common type of bibliomancy uses the bible, letting the book fall open to a random page and putting your finger on the passage. That’s been practiced since medieval ages apparently, but I found a several religious websites that had to remind a straying public that even if it does use the bible, bibliomancy is still a form of divination and therefore a sin. Beware!

Okay then, so don’t use the bible. I don’t really want to cross the sort of people that would make those webpages in the first place. Wikipedia, a much chiller info source says that any book that “contains truth” should do fine, which really opens up our options, and means that what I was doing as a kid probably still counts as psychic powers training.

So, any book that holds truth? That’s basically any favorite book of yours, any one that spoke to you on a deep, emotional level. Suddenly, all my Mary Oliver books are both my favorite poetry books and divination tools. Go ahead and round up your favorite truth-telling books so we can get to this last part, telling the fortune itself.

Now, you can have a question in mind for the text or just come at it with an open mind. Methods to pick the passage vary. Some ancient people used dice or other random input to choose a page, which is kind of like gambling so that could be fun. Just letting the book fall open to a page seems like a bad idea to me, because it’ll just fall open to whatever page you read the most, if it’s thick enough to fall open by itself at all. We want real divination here people, not just random chance.

I personally like to pick up a book, eyes closed then randomly flip through the pages nice and quick, and jam my finger on a page to get my results. I did this with my Mary Oliver essay book Upstream, (a great read even when you’re not trying to tell the future,) and got the line, “What I mean by spirituality is not theology, but attitude.” Good line, right? I’m not sure what that means for my future exactly. I need to be more spiritual? I need to take up more of an attitude about religion, sass back at a priest, maybe? Taking lines from a poetry book or something similar means you’ll get a lot of these wise yet vague sage-like lines, which is why I like using them, but don’t be afraid to try your own favorites, maybe even the bible if you’re not afraid of upsetting some very concerned Christian internet people. Develop those psychic powers!

If you feel like trying this out, make sure you let me know how it turns out! Go ahead and post any fortunes in the comments below. After consulting my own texts, the powers that be tell me the best way to sign off this entry is with the line “Tempest gods send their clerics to inspire fear in the common folk,” whatever that means. I’m still practicing here guys, and I have a lot of fantasy books in my divination tools pile.

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Stuff About Stuff I’ve Been Feeling by Alicia Cook

It takes ingenuity and creativity to even get published in the poetry industry. To stand out, it takes even more. I stumbled upon Alicia Cook’s Stuff I’ve Been Feeling Lately and found a poetry collection innovative enough to stand out as playful, fresh and earnest. I’d first heard mention of Cook’s book when it was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Poetry in 2016. Cook’s book was beaten out by Amanda Lovelace’s The Princess Saves Herself in This One that year. Lovelace definitely deserved the win for her work, no doubt. Cook, though, also created something stand-out and special.

Her book, like the cassette tape drawn on the cover, has two sides. First there’s Side A, her poems, each accompanied by a footnote mentioning what song Cook listened to while creating the piece. Side B holds the “Remixes,” erasure poetry created out of her own work, and separate musical inspiration for that piece as well.

To clarify, erasure poetry is when someone creates a poem by blacking out or erasing all the other words in a pre-existing chunk of text, everything from other poetry to newspaper articles, and creating a new piece of art out of the words you choose to leave. Generally, this form creates a short poem with an air of the strictest essentials laid bare. Most times, the erasure poem’s message is something completely new or else not apparent in the original piece, but the careful selection of each word shows that essence was, in a way,  present the whole time.

There’s something really clever in creating erasure poems with one’s own work. Typically, a poet creates with found pieces, making something of someone else’s. Cook going over her work again does something interesting. It partially plays off the way music informs the structure of this cassette tape masquerading as a poetry collection, that remix element. These poems are songs on a playlist, someone’s favorites and all the remixes.

On another level, we have the writer always eager to continue fiddling with her work and what it says, an impulse that I and just about any writer ever is all too familiar with. It’s the marrying of these two artistic themes, the remixing and the urge to continually self-edit, say something different with the same words that form Stuff I’ve Been Feeling’s unique atmosphere and message. There’s always more to say, and sing, even over what’s already been put down to paper. Many facets of emotional power lay locked in the same set of words.

Cook pieces together this lesson on artistic repetition with a homey, almost handmade air. The poem “tracks” relay intimate personal content, and then that content and it’s remixes create a sort of mix tape bound into print, a small gift that gives you a  truly stand-out poetic work to enjoy.

A Post for my Mother

Mother’s Day is coming up this weekend. I wouldn’t be the special kind of book nerd I am today without my mom. Whenever I say that my mom’s a librarian, people give me a kind of “ahhh…” look, as in, “oh, that explains this nerd’s deal.” Yes, I was indoctrinated from birth to love books, or it was in my DNA, sure. It’s more than that though. Thinking about it like “Welp, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” simplifies what was a warm, loving relationship that featured a slow yet joyful cultivation of a shared passion, something that continues to make my life richer.

The very simple start of it all was my mother reading to me as much as she could, as early as she could. First she’d read as many different picture books to my sister and I as possible, with some recurring favorites like Goodnight Gorilla and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom holding fixed positions in our story time queue. Then, as I got older, I was the one that would have to read to her and my sister, developing and stretching my own reading skills. Eventually, bedtime stories were replaced by me reading to myself every night, which did have it’s perks. Mom always insisted on an end to story time, but alone, I could hide under the covers with a flash light and keep the tales going all night long. New and improved story time did not end the essential roll my mother played in feeding my reading habit though. Things just got even bigger when I got older and she took a job on at the local library.

It was very useful to have a librarian in my pocket growing up. You better believe I never had to worry about late fees. I still don’t. The privilege is real. I’m not sure I can even admit to this next part legally, but My mother sometimes let me peek at some of the hottest books before the release date, before they would even be allowed to go on the shelves. Yeah, pretty sure I definitely wasn’t supposed to mention that. Sorry mom, you’re getting arrested by the publishing police for Mother’s Day.

My mom never liked to take me to the library, funnily enough, because she would basically be walking into work on her off hours. Still, I always managed to get plenty of books out of that place to feed the reading appetite of a growing girl. Having that sort of access to whatever books I wanted to try, coupled with an official librarian’s encouragement and assistance, even when she was off duty, definitely helped grow the bookworm in my heart.

Still today, books are a reason to stay connected to my mom as I start to live away from home. We always have recommendations for each other. We’re their to support each other through tragically bad film adaptations of books we loved. We stick together through all those highs and lows of loving books.

Just recently, I saw my local bookstore, (Anderson’s) announcing Graeme Simsion’s visit to promote his new book, The Best of Adam Sharp. Simsion is currently my mother’s most favorite author of all time thanks to his previous two books, the Rosie Project and Rosie Effect, so, as long a shot as it was, I knew I’d be the worst daughter ever if I didn’t call up my mom and tell her the news. Despite the very short notice, and the event being on a weeknight, she managed to show up, my dad in tow, and we all got to hear Simsion talk about his new book, and got the book signed afterward too.

Looking at the history of my relationship with my mother is by default looking at my history with books, and looking at both helps reveal why I’ve always thought of books as warm, welcoming environments. I’m dedicating this post to my mom today because she’s why I care enough about books to create a book blog in the first place. Mom, all this, including this post for you, only happened because of you and everything you did to help my little book-loving brain grow. Happy Mother’s Day.

23 Book Salute

Hey guys, I recently celebrated my tiny human body living through yet another rotation of the earth around the sun. In other words, I turned twenty-three this week, and for my birthday I definitely got plenty of books, more than my already stuffed full bookshelves are telling me I should be getting, but birthday books must be welcomed onto the shelf. It’s a pretty strict clause in my book collection bylaws. I have a lot of strict bylaws that require I always allow myself to buy more books, even when I have too many already, now that I think about it.

If I’m a bit of a book glutton, it’s only because I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today without books. They’ve been comforts, opportunities for growth, windows into worlds I’d never seen before. As such, I’d like to use this time to give something of an award acceptance speech, a chance to thank all the books that brought me here today. I could mention humans too I suppose, but mostly I’d just be thanking them for giving me books, so let’s just cut out the middle man here.

Hello everyone, I’m just so honored to win the award of somehow being allowed to continue my life for another year, despite many instances of gross incompetence on my part. I couldn’t have made it through my 22nd year without so many books, and I’ll try to thanks them all before the band starts playing me off. I’d like to thank:

  1. Mary Oliver’s Upstream, for introducing me to some of the best essays I’ve ever read, written by the best poet I’ve ever read.
  2. Thanks to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for giving me the answer to life, the universe and everything.
  3. Thank you Saga, a beautifully written and illustrated sci-fi graphic novel series for showing me more alien genitalia than I ever really thought I’d need to see. Lot’s of variety there.
  4. Thanks to the Game of Thrones series, for jump starting the trend of killing off characters with abandon. Truly, none of my favorite protagonists are safe anymore, thanks to you. (This may be a partially sarcastic thank you.)
  5. Thank you Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instrument series, for addressing the serious dearth of quality gay warlock characters in my life and the genre at large, and surviving far too many attempts to be made into a a film, TV series, etc. Stay strong.
  6. Thank you to Lumberjanes for creating touching, realistic friendships in an outlandish setting that almost made me wish my parents had sent me to summer camp.
  7. Thanks The Rosie Project for being one of the funniest books I read in a while and having a character on the autism spectrum depicted tenderly and without gimmicks.
  8. Thank you Pretty Deadly, for proving that Fantasy and Western are indeed compatible genres and making something truly strange and beautiful.
  9. Thank you R.H. Sin’s Whiskey, Words and a Shovel I-III for proving the best strategy is to find the perfect title and stick with it.
  10. Thank you to that one battered copy of Paul Coelho’s The Alchemist for finally making it into my hands during a Christmas Party White Elephant gift exchange this year, so I could at last read this classic.
  11. Thank you Hamilton: The Revolution, for allowing me to be an even more insufferable Hamilton snob than ever before.
  12. Thanks, A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab, for concluding a series I love without breaking my heart, except for that special way that any a writer with power over characters you truly love can, which is mostly good in a strange way.
  13. Thank you a Study in Charlotte, for coming at the “Sherlock Holmes revamped” concept in a fresh way that didn’t have me breaking my eye-rolling muscle, like I did when someone tried to make me watch Elementary.
  14.  Thank you Jen Wilde’s Queens of Geek for your fun and nerdy premise. It was the perfect excuse to cuddle in bed and keep reading during that streak of terrible weather.
  15. Thank you Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, for finding a way to make over a poem which includes an in depth description of a tree’s biological anatomy.
  16. Thank you original Harry Potter series, for remaining a solid rock in my book life, for staying solid and true, even with each subsequent amusement park and frivolous movie adaptation trying exploit
  17. Thanks, Dragons Love Tacos, for restoring my faith in the future of children’s picture books and fine literature with that title alone.
  18. Thank you Wonder by Emma Donoghue, for proving that a book about a quaint Irish farm village can be the farthest thing from a cozy Celtic romance or mystery, if the woman who wrote Room also writes it.
  19. Thank you Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey for tricking the general public into caring about poetry by getting on the New York Times Bestseller list.
  20. Thanks books about Pokemon for existing, so I had something for the large number of younger male cousins with birthday parties I don’t remember getting invited to. Thanks, also, for letting me peek inside you to see what a Litten is so I could kind of understand what they kept going on about.
  21. John Lewis’s March, for inspiring me to travel to the Women’s March on Washington and take part in history.
  22. Thanks so much The Wicked + The Divine for being yet another reason I need to get the Image Comics logo tattooed on my forehead.
  23.  Finally, thank you that one “cozy mystery” book Above the Paw. I still have not read you, nor do I plan to, but every time I see that cover of a dog in a police uniform, looking ready to deal out some justice, along with that title, still sitting there on that shelf at my local bookstore, my day always gets a little bit better.

I’ve had a lot of books make my year better in a lot of different ways. Truly, I can feel so many of the books I read impacting me, changing the person I’m every day, usually for the better. Thanks to each and every one, and here’s to even more books make this coming year better too.