64 Changes is a collection of poems, based on the I Ching, by Alan Casline just out from FootHills Publishing. I won’t say the world was eagerly awaiting the publication of these poems, but those of us who know Alan & his work know this has been hanging fire for some time, at least since 2007 & the publication of Copper Coins (Rootdrinker Institute), a chapbook containing 9 poems & the summary of his work on this project, “Progress on Hexagrams.” The new book contains a poem (sometimes more than one) on each of the 64 hexagrams in the I Ching (often translated as “The Book of Changes”). It is sometimes described as a method of divination or fortune telling, but it is more accurate to call it a collection of gnomic passages of advice that one arrives at by chance methods (i.e., tossing coins or a complex system of yarrow sticks). I confess to being a devotee of the I Ching, its sage advice having often guided me through difficult times & decisions. Like newspaper astrology or the sortex Virgilianum the texts are general statements advising patience, right action, proper behavior that can apply to most situations we meet in life — i.e., it never sanctions slicing the tires of your wife’s lover’s pick-up truck. The comments & images attached to each of the hexagrams give us pause in our busy lives to think about the options that lie before us & to take the time to consider our actions before we do them.
Being a supporter of local poets & their work Alan’s event, held at the Pine Hollow Arboretum in Slingerlands, NY included an open mic, as well as pizza. The first poet up was Peter Boudreaux with his poem about his day “Infinity.” Bob Sharkey followed with “Subject 0020” a piece that uses the letters of the combined names of Alan Casline & poet Alan Catlin (who was out wandering the trails of the Arboretum with his wife Valerie), then a piece of urban observations on women & words. Mark W. O’Brien began with a poem from a visit to The Clark Institute “My Deposition” then a poem based upon reading Seamus Heaney. Joe Krausman read a new piece “Buddhist Dreams” & an older poem “Holocaust.” Joan Gran read from a book by Patricia Gilbert, then her own piece on writers finishing their work “In Conclusion.”
Many years ago, before I had only a mechanical work-processor, I created a small broadside, “Hexagram 13,” using physical cut-&-paste & reproduced it at a copy center; in honor of Alan’s new work I re-created it on my computer, printed it on my printer & read it tonight, then, at Michael Czarnecki’s prodding reading a short piece from my own just published chapbook from his FootHills Publishing, Gloucester Notes. Tom Corrado read “Expected Gain” from his self-published chapbook Liner Notes.
Alan’s (& my) publisher Michael Czarnecki had come from Western New York for this event, but had no poems in his pocket, so recited from memory “Mid Way Poem” then “The Echo of What is Past” based on his reading of Chinese poets. John Abhul, the hands & spirit that created the Arboretum here, read 2 of his own philosophical pieces “Bonds” & “Father Time,” then one of his favorite poems “The Song of the Trolleys” by kindred spirit W.S. Merwin.
Philomena Moriarty ended the open mic with 3 spiritual pieces, a meditation on the Prayer of St. Francis, a poem on rising from “the death of God” “Blessed Be,” & a poem on gratitude “Benefaction.”
At this point Alan called for a break before his own short reading, but I had to leave & missed his reading. Having heard Alan read his poems many times in the past I have a sense of the timbre & pitch & rhythm of his voice when reading his poems & indeed had already heard his voice reading 64 Changes both reading some of the actual poems in the past, as well as in my own ear when I read from this book after it arrived last week. If you are not familiar with either Alan Casline’s poetry, or with the I Ching, I encourage you to buy this book — in fact, I encourage you to buy & read this book even if you toss the I Ching every morning or have been to Alan’s readings in the past. You can order direct from FootHills Publishing at this link.
This post originally appeared on Dan Wilcox’s blog on September 5, 2015.