A benefit of working with an Indie Press such as Big Table Publishing is contributing to the design of the book cover. For Ginseng Tango, my travel memoir on South Korea due out in October, I chose the amazing book designer Robert Smith who created previous covers for my poetry books. He listened to my suggestions and developed them with his skilled eye for how color and shape fit together.

What follows are parts of his layered design which reflect themes from my book.

The South Korean flag is visually striking and symbolizes the dynamic balance that is the heart and hope of the country. The circle and line cutting  through the middle is popularly known in Taoism and Buddhism as ying-yang. It represents duality in continual give and take, the universe and its inhabitants undergoing constant change. Flanking each corner are four trigrams for justice, fruition, wisdom, and vitality. The trigrams also refer to seasons, directions, family, and celestial bodies.

Flag of S. Korea

While I was teaching at Keimyung University in Daegu, I joined a tango community and began taking classes in this passionate Argentine dance that for years I wanted to learn but hadn’t gotten around to doing so while living in the U.S.  Most major cities in Korea have one or several tango centers. Lucky for me, a local experienced tango embraced me as his student.

I visited several Buddhist temples, many of which are a few thousand years old. I did a templestay with friends and students and had one-on-one meetings with the resident monks. Below is a door into a temple.

Once inside a temple, my eyes couldn’t help but dart around at the walls, ceiling and floor, carved or painted in magnificent bold colors and dazzling geometric patterns. Each abstract or picture tells a tale from Buddhism’s long history or suggests a part of Korean culture. Shown here with the dragon are the clouds one rides to attain Buddhahood and enlightenment.

Put all these elements together into design wizardry of Robert Smith and the result is this:


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