Derek White

Tell us about a book you want to tell us about.

DEREK: I hope it’s okay to mention a book I published … a little-known book because I didn’t put much effort into promoting it, aside from sending it around to friends and people I thought might be interested. Part of the ‘problem’ (from a promotional standpoint) is that the book has no words …  and only has a title to satisfy metadata requirements (to reference what it is we are talking about)—UNTITLED: UNDER THE AUSPICES.

It is a ‘self-authored’ book, attributed to STURNUS VULGARIS (the scientific name for the common starling) … in much the same way that the collective patterns of starlings or social insects are self-organizing. The book consists entirely of photos of starlings and their flight patterns captured in the skies over Rome. The only thing I added, as editor or publisher, was punctuation … the rest is the work of starlings. I put the book together for selfish reasons, obsessed as I was with watching these birds … especially given the historical significance of bird flight patterns in the tradition of auguring in ancient Rome (where I lived the last few years). In much the same way that artists such as John Cage used the I Ching or other divination processes to inform their art, I found myself ‘consulting’ the starlings (both watching live and in the photos I ‘captured’).  So I put together this book for myself and others wishing to use the book as a sort of tool of divination.


What book has made you feel lost in the best possible way?

DEREK: FINNEGANS WAKE.  I’ve tried to read this a few times and I don’t have the slightest clue what it is about. My eyes have glossed over every word, but as a whole the book, and for that matter each passage, each sentence, remains impenetrable to me. Which is what makes it so good.


You are the founder of Calamari Press. Surely someone who is currently reading this interview will one day start his or her own small press. Any advice?

DEREK: My advice is to not listen to any one else’s advice. Do it your own way.


Derek White is the author of many books, including Marsupial.  He is the founder of Calamari Press.