the story of a book cover

Every book cover has a story of course, and I thought I’d share the story behind the jacket of sprinting on quicksand. It was designed by Leonie Lane, who used to work at Tin Sheds and Redback Graphics, and is now based in northern NSW. Many years ago, Leonie visited us in Mexico and one fine day we decided to burn off some dry leaf matter. Well! we nearly set fire to the electricity cables in the alley. After the drama of putting out the fire with near zero water pressure from the well with the failing pump, Leonie did a little painting that I still have, it hangs on my study wall. It’s a portrait of me, with the flames and the hose and the cables above, calling for assistance, Rápido!

While Leonie was working on the cover I made a small thank you note in the style of the Mexican retablos.  A retablo is an expression of folkloric religious art, usually a small painting where someone gives thanks to a saint or divinity for a miracle. For instance, I have a retablo in my kitchen where Evaristo and Antonia give thanks to San Pascual Bailón, St Pascual the dancer, for saving Antonia from burning when her skirt caught fire when she was cooking.

In my retablo, we give thanks to the Virgencita de Guadalupe for the miracle granted when the fire nearly reached the electricity wires. The date is 1987, the book cover was designed in 2020. That’s how long the back story is for sprinting on quicksand, 33 years!

Leonie of course went one better with the cover, the figure is no longer paralysed with fear or calling for help, but sprinting or even dancing. She reminds me a little of the Tarot card The Fool, and I love it.

You can find Leonie’s design company at


the book launch

We held a launch of sprinting on quicksand and of Riverton Press in late November. A Covid regulated affair, outdoors, max 30 persons. It was a good day, perfect 24 degrees. Eileen Haley spoke and launched the book, she wore the colours of the poem PINK AND BLUE, but no pink, no blue, she chose the charcoal greys, outback reds and rebellious orange, and looked a treat.

I wore a hat, not a fascinator (next time!), just one I grabbed as I walked out the door, but it made a difference, I was congratulated on the hat, on the establishment of Riverton Press, and for organising the launch. Many were happy to have a wee social event to attend after months of Covid precautionary isolation. And, I hope, they enjoyed the poetry!

Eileen did more research about quicksand and told us more about this element than the author ever imagined. This is typical of the Haley mind, she has a great capacity for investigation and drawing independent conclusions. She told us:

The first question the work posed for me was: Can you really sprint on quicksand? Madame Google and Ms YouTube soon answered that for me: Yes you can. It looks very like somebody walking all over a water bed. The trick is to keep moving. Stand on quicksand and you will sink (though not as rapidly as movies and cartoons suggest). But strike it quickly and it will briefly harden, forming a nearly cylindrical solid region directly below the impact point.

Eileen then used the different regions mentioned in my poetry as those solid cylindrical parts where the poet has struck, so to speak, from the bedrock of Riverton to the heights of Mt Haguro in Japan. And after reading my poem MORNING BLESSING, she concluded:

So I ask you to raise your glasses once again, as we declare SPRINTING ON QUICKSAND launched: may she sprint long and elegantly, and may the Goddess bless her and all who journey with her.