Welcome to the Poison Pie Publishing House!
Home to a Literature of Non-Idiomatic Improvisation

Featured Books:

A Bestiary of East Tennessee is an encyclopedia of the creatures, mundane and exotic, dwelling in East Tennessee and other proximate locations. Illustrated in felt by the Keffer family, the book is filled with felt finger puppets, photographs from wild places and informative descriptions.

The Portable Library of Hong Samud is a post-existential fantasy generated through a non-idiomatic improvisational creative process, resulting in a novel that grew as a vine grows, guided by an innate, phototactic sensitivity
flyer; more


Blog & News Updates:

October 19, 2016
Vijay Iyer
Today we feature a quote from the American pianist, Vijay Iyer (October 26, 1971-).

It was also made clear in this exchange that music can be viewed as a consequence of active listening; it is, at some level, through informed listening that music is constructed. Placing the skillful listener in such an active role explodes the category of experiences that we call listening to music, because it allows the listener the improvisatory freedom to frame any moment or any experience as a musical one. The improvisor is always listening; the listener is always improvising.

--Vijay Iyer, from Why Roscoe Mitchell is Important, Table & Chairs Music Blog, May 20, 2013.


October 3, 2016
New Issue of the International Journal of Exploratory Meta-Living
Our wily friends over at the International Journal of Exploratory Meta-Living have surprised us with an unexpected issue, discussing the language of annual performance reviews. Improvements in this area, especially in terms of the vocabulary used in the classification of demonstrated performance, are provided. As always, the content of this issue and all previous issues from IJEML is available via free, anonymous download.


September 23, 2016
Stair Going Nowhere:
A Twentieth-Century Tour of Knoxville

Travel back with me to the final year of the twentieth century. In visiting places where old buildings had once stood, one found now only empty lots, even in the heart of the city. In several cases, there was evidence, based on the size of the trees, that the lots had been vacant for some time. Frequently, the only remaining indication that an edifice had been present was a staircase leading up from the sidewalk. This photo essay, first published on the internet in 1999, follows the inimitable Poison Pie as he provides a tour of various Stairs Going Nowhere that existed at the time, primarily in the Fort Sanders, Downtown and South Knoxville neighborhoods of Knoxville, Tennessee.


September 18, 2016
A Survey of One Hundred Bestiaries
The bibliophiles at the Poison Pie Publishing House presented on this blog a brief description of a bestiary for each day from June 1, 2016 through September 8, 2016, which amounted to one hundred books about beasts. Since then they have added a few more such books taken from the shelves that line the halls of the Poison Pie Publishing House. One suspects, given their history, that the staff will continue to make additions to the survey as new bestiaries are published and old bestiaries find their way into their hands. It is unlikely that each new entry will be announced on the blog, so interested visitors are encouraged to check the survey on their own from time to time.


September 17, 2016
33 Contemplations on the Form of the Bear:
An Ursine Tour of Knoxville

There is more to Knoxville than the alphabet. Sometimes black bears from the Smoky Mountains wander into town. Usually they are tranquilized and returned to the forest. In the summer of 2002, the city of Knoxville distributed 33 decorated statues of bears around the city. The event was called, "Bearfoot in the City". Today, there is little record of it on the internet. However, the staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House took a couple days to visit each and every bear. Later in the same year they published a photographic tour of Knoxville via these bears, narrated by none other than, Poison Pie himself, Man of the Mushroom People. Since then, this photo essay has sat on the internet at the same old URL: 33 Contemplations on the Form of the Bear. Today, we dust it off and remind folks what Knoxville was like in 2002.


September 15, 2016
An Alphabetical Tour of Knoxville
People are always asking members of the staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House just what's so great about Knoxville and south Knoxville in particular. To provide an answer, at least in part to this query, we direct readers to An Alphabetical Tour of Knoxville, a photo-essay showcasing a feature of Knoxville (primarily south Knoxville but a few bits of the nearby downtown as well) for each letter of the alphabet. The guides for this tour are younger versions of Ruth and Joseph Keffer, co-authors of A Bestiary of East Tennessee and other illustrated books from the Poison Pie Publishing House. There is an all-ages game component to the piece. The photographs were taken in 2008 and 2009. The photo-essay has resided on the internet since that time. Today, we remind visitors to the site that it still exists and that the loveliness of Knoxville has not diminished too much in the intervening years.


August 8, 2016
Wouldn't the Wood Weird is published!
The short novel, Wouldn't the Wood Weird, written by David J. Keffer is published by the Poison Pie Publishing House in both paperback and electronic formats. It is a post-existential romantic fantasy and is alternately titled, Impractical Prayers from the Spindle of the Void. It was generated through a non-idiomatic improvisational creative process.

"Making the world a better place without personal sacrifice is like making breakfast without maple syrup. It can be done, but it's not very sweet."

Wouldn't the Wood Weird has a thematic kinship with The Ruined Map by Kobo Abé, however there is little else, especially in terms of literary traits, in common between the two works.

A fuller description of the novel is provided here. It is available for purchase in electronic and paperback formats in the shop.


August 5, 2016
Pär Lagerkvist
Today we feature a quote from the Swedish author, Pär Lagerkvist (May 23, 1891 - July 11, 1974). He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1951.

She was indeed like a tree, which has no consciousness of itself, and is a secret. A great secret, perhaps. Yet the tree knows nothing of this: it is a secret even from itself...

She was like the trees. The wind is the worship that fills them, and to which at times--though not always--they listen. Their divine service is within themselves...

It was true that Mariamne needed no temple. Her worship was within her, and she could listen to it at any time. She was like a tree which the wind fills with its secret soughing.

--Pär Lagerkvist, from Mariamne, translated by Naomi Walford, Chatto & Windus, London, 1968, pp. 54, 68.


July 30, 2016
The Seal of House Hebeloma crustuliniforme in felt
The Seal of House Hebeloma crustuliniforme has been rendered in felt. This seal was created by Ms. M. Poonawala, who has a gallery of work featured in the The Experimental Laboratory of Symbology. The interest of the staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House in matters of felt is well documented in roughly two hundred felt finger puppets. Other work is gathered in the The Experimental Laboratory of Felt.


July 28, 2016
Junji Hirose and Kazuhisa Uchihashi - saxophonedaxophone
The staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House typically try to space out music reviews on this blog but having recently (finally!) heard "saxophonedaxophone", we felt compelled to immediately share our thoughts on the release. We have uploaded a longish (1000+ word) review of the "saxophonedaxophone" release by Junji Hirose and Kazuhisa Uchihashi, which puts the album in a historical context. The review is posted here.


July 26, 2016
One Dozen Sides of Vinyl

We review one dozen sides of vinyl: here.
  • Sides 1-2: Never Were the Way She Was - Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld (Constellation Records, CST113-1, 2015, lp)
  • Sides 3-6: Break Stuff - Vijay Iyer Trio (ECM Records, ECM 2420 472-4304, 2015, lpx2)
  • Sides 7-8: Ears Are Filled With Wonder - Heather Leigh & Peter Brötzmann (Trost Records, TR 147, 2016, lp)
  • Sides 9-12: Sorrow (A Reimagining Of Górecki's 3rd Symphony) - Colin Stetson (52Hz Records, 52HZ001LP, 2016, lpx2)


July 20, 2016
More Null_Sets
We have added several new Null_Sets visualizations of work from the Poison Pie Publishing House to the gallery. These visualizations were created by converting the text files of a written work into an image using the Null_Sets script created by Amy Szczepanski and Evan Meaney. The Null_Sets website is located here. The image shown here is the visualization of the novel, The Portable Library of Hong Samud, written by David Keffer in 2015.

Also uploaded is the visualization of the novel, Wouldn't the Wood Weird, written by David Keffer in 2016. These visualizations join a host of other works in the Null_Sets gallery at the Poison Pie Publishing House.


July 13, 2016
Janwillem van de Wetering
Today we feature a quote from the Dutch author, Janwillem van de Wetering (February 12, 1931-July 4, 2008).

Dorin shrugged. "I don't know what my fellow officers base their guidance on, but I have never encouraged any idealism in my own men. I try not to believe in anything myself. Ultimately there is nothing, and it is better to believe in nothing from the start. But it takes great courage not to believe. My own life is continuous proof. Anything upsets me, even dead flies. But I try."

--Janwillem van de Wetering, from The Japanese Corpse, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1977, p. 203.


June 24, 2016
Mary Halvorson vs. Régis Faller: A Juxtaposition of Four-fold Reviews
Our friends over at the International Journal of Exploratory Meta-Living have just published a new issue of the journal featuring a highly geometric review of four albums by the American guitarist, Ms. Mary Halvorson, and four children's books by the French author and illustrator, Mr. Régis Faller. Interested readers are encouraged to check the issue out via free, anonymous download.


May 11, 2016
Harry Partch
Today we feature a quote from the American composer, music theorist, and creator of musical instruments, Harry Partch (June 24, 1901-September 3, 1974).

Originality cannot be a goal. It is simply inevitable. The truly path-breaking step can never be predicted, and certainly not by the person who makes it at the time he makes it. He clears as he goes, evolves his own techniques, devises his own tools, ignores where he must. And his path cannot be retraced, because each of us is an original being.

In the fragile moment of achievement the conditioned attitude evaporates, showing perhaps that there is, in total experience, a deep and abiding tie with peoples and animals and things removed in time and space. The adventurer will undoubtedly experience ridicule, but he is inured to danger; he was not born in the woods to get scared by an owl. To the extent that he is obliged to fly in the face of honored usages he begins to acquire, after decades of weathering, the strange patina of the recidivist, the unregenerate criminal.

--Harry Partch, from the "Preface to the Second Edition", in Genesis of a Music, 2nd Ed. Da Capo Press, Boston, 1974 (1st Ed., 1949), p. xi.


April 24, 2016
Rufous-sided Towhee Faerie
As expected, Miss Ruth Keffer has released a new bird faerie into the experimental laboratory.


April 23, 2016
Rufous-sided Towhee
Miss Ruth Keffer is contemplating the release of a new bird faerie into the experimental laboratory. This faerie is related to the Rufous-sided Towhee, also known as the eastern towhee. However, we did not possess any rufous colored felt. Therefore, we set to searching the internet for just such a thing.



We discovered just what we were looking for in Merino wool blend felt sheets from Over the River Felt of Soddy View Lane in Soddy Daisy, Tennessee!

As a result, we expect to see the appearance of a Rufous-sided Towhee Faerie in the near future.


April 16, 2016
And Also the Trees - Born into the Waves
Virtually all of the music that has been discussed or featured on this blog can be considered one flavor or another of non-idiomatic improvisation. And Also the Trees, however, is an exception. The music of And Also the Trees is decidely composed rather than improvised and the band is certainly idiomatic, falling piecewise into various labels--post punk, gothic, alternative, college rock, etc. Their relevance to the Poison Pie Publishing House is only that the editor became fond of their music in the 1980's and the music, over the ensuing decades, has managed to keep his interest with each subsequent release, including the most recent, Born Into the Waves, released in March, 2016. [More...]


April 12, 2016
The Grand Temple Library of a Forgotten Warlord
We add another graphical entry to the Experimental Laboratory of Symbology at the Poison Pie Publishing House. This piece is a collaborative effort utilizing the script of Mr. Henry Gorton, co-author of The Implacable Absence, and Ms. Marie Poonawala. This entry originates in The Portable Library of Hong Samud.


April 12, 2016
More Musical Non-Idiomatic Improvisation in Knoxville
As part of the the Big Ears Music Festival, on Friday, April 1, 2016, Anthony Braxton's Tentet+1 (Eleventet?) also performed in front of a packed house at the Bijou Theater. Like Wadada Leo Smith who played the Bijou later that same day, Braxton is an American musician and composer and a hero of historical significance from the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). [More...]


April 3, 2016
Musical Non-Idiomatic Improvisation in Knoxville
Knoxville, Tennessee is not only the home to the Poison Pie Publishing House, but also has in recent years hosted the the Big Ears Music Festival. The 2016 iteration of the Big Ears Festival closes today. The staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House purchased day passes for Friday. These shows included a duet featuring Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet and Vijay Iyer on piano, synthesizer and computer at the historic Bijou Theater in downtown Knoxville. [More...]


March 28, 2016
Radio Show: Voices from the Golden Age of Non-Idiomatic Improvisation
As a continuing effort of the course, The Golden Age of Non-Idiomatic Improvisation, at the University of Tennessee, the instructor, David Keffer, and a student, Amanda Fuchs, invite you to an evening of radio showcasing music from ten varied practitioners of non-idiomatic improvisation. The show is tied into the Big Ears Music Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee (March 31-April 2, 2016) with a playlist that features 8 tracks from musicians appearing in the 2016 festival, 1 track from a musician who played a previous festival and 1 track from someone who should be invited next year. The show airs about 8:00 PM (Eastern time) on March 28, 2016 on WUTK (90.3 FM). It will be streamed on the internet as well. A copy of the associated document listing the music played and providing a quote for a few of the musicians, which hints at their underlying motivations, is archived here.


March 26, 2016
The Arbor Inn
We post a graphic, illustrating the components of the perfect tree from the novel, The Augur in the Arbor Inn in the Experimental Laboratory of Symbology.


March 22, 2016
Brown Thrasher
After an absence of nearly six months, Miss Ruth Keffer releases a new bird faerie into the experimental laboratory. It is perhaps not a coincidence that the brown thrashers have just returned for spring in Knoxville, Tennessee.


March 21, 2016
Jorge Luis Borges
Today we feature a sentiment by the Argentinian writer and scholar, Jorge Luis Borges (August 24, 1899-June 14 1986).

I do not write for a select minority, which means nothing to me, nor for that adulated platonic entity known as "The Masses." Both abstractions, so dear to the demagogue, I disbelieve in. I write for myself and for my friends, and I write to ease the passing of time.

--Jorge Luis Borges, from the "Author's Note", in The Book of Sand (El Libro de Arena), translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni, E.P. Dutton, New York, 1977, p. 8.


March 20, 2016
Harry Bertoia - Complete Sonambient Collection
Harry Bertoia (March 10, 1915-November 6, 1978) was an Italian-born American furniture designer and sculptor and sound artist. He created metal sculptures with an intrinsic and purposeful ability to generate sound. He experimented with the shapes of the sculptures in order to extract particular tones. Each of the eleven cds in this box set represents an lp (one released in 1970 and ten released in 1978) containing two tracks corresponding to side A and side B. The lengths of the tracks reflect the limitations of the medium of the time. Only one track is less than ten minutes and six tracks are a minute or two longer than twenty minutes, with the rest falling somewhere in between. All layers of all tracks are generated by the metal sculptures of Bertoia. [More...]


March 15, 2016
Wouldn't the Wood Weird
The staff has received from the author today a completed manuscript of the forthcoming novel, Wouldn't the Wood Weird. The short novel is described as a post-existential romantic fantasy and is alternately titled, Impractical Prayers from the Spindle of the Void. A little more information is revealed here.


March 2, 2016
The Seal of House Hebeloma crustuliniforme (in color)
We have an update to the Experimental Laboratory of Symbology at the Poison Pie Publishing House. Hebeloma crustuliniforme is the scientific name for the mushroom, more commonly known as Poison Pie. Hebelomic acid A is the toxin suspected for making this mushroom unpalatable.


February 24, 2016
Normal University of Hell, Phlegethon Campus Library
Today, we add another entry to the Experimental Laboratory of Symbology at the Poison Pie Publishing House. This entry originates in The Portable Library of Hong Samud. This design, like the previous two entries, is the work of Ms. M. Poonawala.


February 20, 2016
A Diversion on Saturday Morning
Today we post a forgotten diversion. Since 1995, NASA has hosted a site called the Astronomy Picture of the Day, featuring spectacular photos of the Earth and cosmos. From June, 2011 through April, 2012, the Poison Pie Publishing House borrowed some of these photos as background canvases upon which the antics of various fingerpuppets could unfold. Today, we remind visitors of one such three-panel story, A Meeting.


January 20, 2016
Snow Day!
Although nary an inch of snow has yet fallen, the promise of snowfall in the afternoon has shuttered schools across the city of Knoxville. Rising early, our ritual of preparation for a day of work was thwarted by this news. Instead, a poem emerged unexpectedly before the sun had risen: A Prayer for the Unequal Distribution of Talents.


December 19, 2015
The Augur in the Arbor Inn
In 2015, David J. Keffer has finished the writing of a novel, a post-existential fantasy generated through a non-idiomatic improvisational creative process, titled, The Augur in the Arbor Inn. The novel provides an investigation of our modern relationship with the principles of evolution, as espoused by Darwin, through the form of a narrative. Because the novel falls outside established genres, it is difficult to find a good home for it. Attempts to engage traditional representatives of and liaisons to the publishing industry have been met with indifference, if acknowledged at all. As such, a link to an open query letter describing the unpublished manuscript has been posted here. Interested parties are welcome to contact the editor. In the absence of broader interest, The Augur in the Arbor Inn was printed in a limited, private edition of ten.


September 6, 2015
Ninth in the Series of Promotional Flyers for A Bestiary of East Tennessee
The Poison Pie Publishing House presents the final entry in a series of promotional flyers for the illustrated book, A Bestiary of East Tennessee. Here is the ninth instalment, featuring the narrarator, M. Anxo, and his traveling companion, Execrabilia.



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