Monday, December 11, 2006



“Hollyridge Press is a small literary publisher located in Venice, California. Hollyridge uses Print-on-Demand technology to keep its books always in print, always in stock. Books are available to stores in just days for orders as small as one book through Hollyridge's wholesalers Ingram and Baker & Taylor. The technology keeps start-up expenses low, and eliminates costly inventory. Savings are put toward promotion. The Press plans to bring out new work and out-of-print work from literary authors.”

Let me just say that I am not a fan of POD operations. I find the work to be uneven at best. Not necessarily the poetry or prose, but the production. Since the books are basically generated per order or sale, one gets the luck of the print operation. If the machines are working well, one may get a well made book with cover clarity and no streaking. If the machines aren’t, well – then one is stuck with a piece of crap.

I am certain that the Press does well and that it has many fans. I don’t happen to be one of them. The books are so uniform that they feel stale upon opening. The content is distracted by the blandness of the packaging. The covers are identical in design. Same layout, some color scheme in the same format. Perhaps this does identify each book as a Hollyridge Press book for those seeking them out. However, for someone who publishes, as I do, this comes across as a complete lack of imagination on the part of the publisher and design person.

That said: I decided to review

Jesse Lee Kercheval
Hollyridge Press
Venice, CA

The work in this chapbook is varied and at time surprising. Her bio indicates that she was born in France. It shows in her verse. And I do mean that as a compliment. The work’s strength is in its images and phrases. Her prose poem J’ai deux amours & One of them is Paris is a particular delight. These 39 pages breeze by so quickly it leaves one thirsty for me. I would be remiss if I did not mention that as stated above, however, it is hit-or-miss with quality of the book itself. Death: A Definition is smeared; the page is imperfect. These blemishes do take away from the overall appreciation of the work but I place that “fault” on the decision of the publisher and not on the poet herself. Any book is only as good as what comes back from the printer. And sometimes it makes one wonder if the technology is up to snuff. Buyer beware!

Aaron Simon
Insurance Editions
Jackson Heights, NY

Insurance Editions makes quality chapbooks, period. Carrier by Aaron Simon is no exception. It’s a small book, 6 3/4 X 5 1/4. The paper stock and quality of printing are to be commended. I will note that the book was printed at Oscar Printing Company of San Francisco, CA and it is a superb job. The 34 prose poems are equal to the production of the book. I would say that this is a fine book and if you not yet familiar with Mr. Simon’s work, as I was not, it behooves you to find and read whatever Aaron was brought out. You are in for a treat.

The Anatomy of Oil
Marcella Durand
Belladonna Books
Brooklyn, NY

This is a gorgeous book. Just that, gorgeous. Letterpress cover designed by Tim Sullivan from the Center for Book Arts and printed by Soho Letterpress, this is a masterpiece of the form. Astounding! The editors of the Belladonna poetry series and of Belladonna Books, Rachel Levitsky and Erica Kaufman have here something to be extremely proud out. This is a collector’s item. The poetry is a wonderful as the production. It’s a book any collector of chapbooks needs to own. Not enough praise for Belladonna Books. If you are interested, and you ought to be, go to Belladonna Series.

Flat House
Irene Koronas
Ordinary Press
Cambridge, MA

Known in the Boston area as “word catcher”, Irene Koronas’ method of poetry writing feels quite familiar to this reviewer. She writes what she hears, in whatever fragmented way she catches it. Her poems are seamless in their creation and yet one can detect the multiple voices being woven together. In the introduction by Jennifer Howe Peace one sees that “words flow unhinged, like streams of water or riffs of music. (Koronas) creates ripples of words across the page that shift and form new patterns, new associations, new meanings depending on the experiences and attention of the reader.” Indeed so. Koronas has tapped into the Burroughs cut-up machine without having a unified “text” to begin with. Life is the text. What she captures from it, from the snippets of her own awareness, become filtered onto the page and then reinterpreted by the reader. Completing the cycle and starting it anew.

This is an amazingly complex process and effort and if one is inclined to pursue the literary butterflies of LANGUAGE poetics and ‘The New Novel’ abstractness, this book is for you. However, if the reader is seeking a spoon-fed sense of meaning and comprehension, then it’s best to pass on this one. While Koronas is not trying to bend that spoon nor the reader’s perspective, it’s important to remember: there is no spoon.

Here’s to You
Andrew Mister & Anthony Robinson
boku books
New York, New York

This small Xerox-produced chapbook is nothing more that a series of email exchanges between two persons on either side of the United States. I am not sure why this particular set of exchanges is more worthy of publication than others, but I found it a complete waste of the trees that were felled in its making. SAVE A TREE!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006



The Dictionary Poems: Some Bees
Lauren Bender
Newlights Press

This well made 20 page chapbook, put out by Newlights Press, is from a larger on-going project by Lauren Bender. There is a bit of mystery in the production of this book. There is no title page, nor info about the Press, nor a webaddress, nor a physical address. Interesting, curious. As are the poems. Very interesting and curious.

I got a chance to hear the poet read in 2005. She’s worth reading, check her out.

Black Diamond
Karen Blomain
Nightshade Press
Troy, Maine

Karen Blomain is a professor at Kutztown University in Pennyslvania. This is the second edition of her first chapbook. It was published by Nightshade Press, a well known small Press with a wonderful track record. The cover illustration is by Carolyn Page. It shows a woman in front of a coal mine with a baby carriage lined up behind a coal cart, suggesting that the baby in the carriage is destined to be in the mines as well. The work is solid and for anyone familiar at all with the coal region of Pennsylvania, an accurate portrayal of the area. Especially the poem ‘Centralia’ about the now abandoned town in Central PA where a fire still burns underground, burning seams of coal, burning endlessly.

a Bestiary
Kim Carlin
Shattered Wig
Baltimore, MD

I have written before about Shattered Wig and the Baltimore scene a bit. Here’s another example of it. ‘a bestiary’ is a 23 page chapbook with pink cover stock and a collage by Claire Rusko-Berger on the front of a rather untypical feast in which animals with human bodies dine on plates of food including a stuffed human head. The poems themselves are inventive and different. Ms. Carlin is part of the core group that makes up Shattered Wig, all a bit mysterious and lurking in the shadows but sometimes one needs to remain invisible to observe and write without detection.

Ann Stephenson
Tent Editions
New York, New York

Published in May 2006, this seemingly simple chapbook is one of the best-made books I have held in years. Tent Editions has a knack for creating quality products. This is no exception. Her voice is strong and her images crisp. ‘Poem’ is especially touching. Go find this book!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Sending Off the Godhead in the City of Light
Mark Terrill
Hydrogen Jukebox Press
Berlin, Germany

I received this small chapbook rather unexpectedly from Germany over the summer. The funny thing is I was going to write about the author, Mark Terrill, anyway since a chapbook of his on the now defunct Green Bean Press imprint, Here to Learn: Remembering Paul Bowles, had such an impact on me. Perhaps it was that the chapbook also contained a CD of Moroccan Music, was illustrated by Bowles good friend, Mohammed Mrebet and was signed by the author. The book itself contained photos of Tangiers and Bowles. A real time piece for anyone who is familiar with Paul Bowles work, and for those collectors who love to find ephemeral material on established writers. Terrill is a good writer in his own right, I should add.
So it was surprising to me to receive something from Terrill in the mail. The chapbook contains 5 prose poems writing in and about Paris. It’s a bit of a tease. It’s so short it’s hard to sink one’s teeth into it. I hope this will be expanded into a larger book someday.
Terrill is the author of seven books of poetry, one book of Nonfiction (the Bowles book) and a book of translation. He is an American ex pat currently living in Germany. And the sort of find worth making!

The Angel Poems
Liz Rosenberg
State Street Press
Pittsford, NY

Used bookstore find. Nice cover, designed by Ken Morrow, with an angel on the front. This collection of 19 poems was made possible by the New York and Pennsylvania Arts Councils. The writing is strong and contains great visuals. The book was part of the second series of the State Street Press Chapbooks. It’s rare although there were 400 copies of it printed in 1984. One thing about chapbooks I have learned is that they disappear and are generally not cared for as well as ‘standard’ books. That’s a pity. A chapbook like this deserves better.

Toward Morning & Swimmers
Elaine Terranova
Hollow Spring Press
Chester, MA

This is two small collections put together in one binding. Hollow Spring Press is under the auspices of the Hollow Spring Artists and Writers Guild, Inc. a non-profit organization. (at least in 1980) and Elaine’s work appeared in their magazine prior to this volume coming out.

She is the author of The Cult of the Right Hand (Doubleday, 1991), which won the 1990 Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, and Damages (Copper Canyon, 1996). Her translation of "Iphigenia at Aulis" is included in the Euripides III volume of the Penn Greek Drama Series (1998). Her latest book of poems is The Dog's Heart (Orchises, 2002)

Her mastery is quite evident in this chapbook.

How I Figure
Keith Gilyard
Whirlwind Press
Camden, NJ

Gilyard is an English Professor at Penn State and an editor, as well as being a fine poet. This 27 page collection is a good example of his work. With cover art by Noel Miles, this book is alive with the art within. No conversation about Philadelphia small presses is complete without mentioning Lamont Steptoe’s Whirlwind Press.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006



Texture Press
Norman, OK

H.T. is now a professor of English at Kutztown University (PA) and has been an co-editor of the influential journal 6ix. In this volume, bright pink cover with blue flyleaf, done masterfully by Texture Press, the weaving undercurrent of thought and language are on full display. Interesting sense of poetics.

It’s My Body
Denise Duhamel
Egg in Hand Press
Chicago, IL

These poems could easily be called her ‘Barbie’ poems – some good work, great imagery and bright pink cover. Egg in Hand Press didn’t spend terribly much on the production of this chapbook however; the text is “hairy”, as a poet I know pointed out in another chapbook done on the cheap. Ms. Duhamel has created quite a body of work of which this is not to be overlooked. I believe some of these poems have appeared elsewhere in her “canon”.

Tonguing Crooked Ample
Ralph LaCharity
Ostowegowa Press
Kent, OH

In 1998, when I was developing the idea for the poetry festival called Bardfest, the one that occurs in Berks County, PA, one of the first poets who signaled interest in participating was Ralph LaCharity. He has for years been a fixture in Cincinnati, Ohio poetry scene. He played drums and often performed with a group. He had a series of chapbooks and Tonguing Crooked Amble was one of them. There are collages by the poet inside front and back of book. A pink sash across the cover. The chapbook consists of a few poems and longer explanations of his art (poetry) and Art in a more general appreciation. In particular, the final piece, on Performance poetry is insightful and informative;

“The Audience for Poetry is most frequently in a condition of prey,
wherein Poetry stalks the Audience. In Performance, Poetry is
haughty to the point of sadism. The Audience is Victim & must
defend itself howsoever it can. The only defense is comprehension,
but no Audience comprehends fast enough.

Anyone with an interest in how this Performance Poet seems the develop of the art form within the context of our hyper-fast lives needs to read this piece.

Walt Disney is Frozen and Mickey House is a Millionaire
Edward Francis
Leonard Gontarek's
City Book Shop
Philadelphia, PA

Leonard Gontarek has established himself from the very beginning in Philadelphia as someone on a mission. One of his missions, perhaps one that grew from his time running City Book Shop was the publishing of chapbooks. This is a well made chapbook, awkward title but hey…the clipart of a workman with his lunch box is priceless on the front cover. The poems are consistent. The paper used is really nice. As they say in the business, “Nice paper”. 30 pages.
I don’t know the author, don’t know if he is even in Philadelphia any longer but this is worthy of getting a signed copy if that is possible.

I am Going to Walk toward the Sanctuary
Kelley Jean White, MD
Via Dolorosa Press
Cleveland, OH

Kelley White has written over 1,200 poems and has a number of chapbooks in print. This one, I am going to walk toward the sanctuary, is among those. A Yellow cover with cover art by Paolo Sorrentino, the volume feels rushed. Not the work itself, although some pages have as few as eight words on them, but the production itself. The book wasn’t trimmed which allows for a raising of the pages toward the middle fold of the book. There is no info on Kelley White in the book and if I didn’t know her already, I would have no idea how to contact the author; other than to contact the publisher. The Imprint, Nepenthe Books, is a division of Via Dolorosa.

I got my copy from the author and there is no price on the book so I don’t know how the distribution for it worked. It’s an interesting read. And for those of you collecting Kelley’s work, and you should, this is definitely one to get. Better ask her for them though.

Monday, August 28, 2006



Robert Creeley
The Toothpaste Press
West Branch, Iowa

This handsome,(7 3/4” X 5”) little chapbook was published by The Toothpaste Press in March 1982. There is no page count. 14 pages of printed material. Contains the poems First Rain, Waiting, Self Portrait, Still Too Young, Still Dancers, Elements, If Happiness, Bresson’s Movies, Stone, Some Echo, Beyond, and the title poem, Echoes.

I will readily admit to “ebaying” and that’s where I found 3 Creeley chapbooks. It was a lucky moment, but one I was determined to take advantage of. While the chapbooks did not come cheaply, they were all in pristine condition. The craftsmanship of Allan Kornblum, owner of Toothpaste Press, Iowa, is quite evident in the two chapbooks I have from his press. I don’t know how long Toothpaste Press was in operation but if all their books were done this well, they were a treasure lost.

I have found a few copies of this book as well as a French version of it which appeared in 1996 online. Again, not cheap, but incredibly worth having. If you are a fan of Creeley, look for his books on Toothpaste Press; Echoes (1982) and Later (1978).

Let’s Just Say
Charles Bernstein
Chax Press
Tucson, AZ

Charles Bernstein, in addition to his work with the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E movement, has consistently worked with small presses. This small (6 7/8” X 5 1/2”) beautifully created chapbook is an example of his work with fine craftsmen/printers. Consisting of 4 poems, including the titled piece, this slim volume was expertly made. In addition to ‘Let’s Just Say’, the chap contains 3 other poems written in 2001, ‘Thank You for Saying Thank You’, ‘In Particular’, and an untitled poem commonly known as ‘every lake has a house’.

I wish there was some info about the production, but alas that is part of the mystery.
Great little book.

Charles Potts
Time Barn Books
Nashville, TN

As I was beginning this ‘chapbook project’ a publisher from Nashville contacted me and we exchanged some books; this was one of them. If you are not familiar with Charles Potts, he is the author of 26 books of poetry and prose. Known primarily as a west coast poet, Potts has been extremely productive and influential in the State of Washington, where he founded Tsunami Inc., a vertically integrated international publishing venture, which published The Temple magazine as well as a driving force behind the creation of Temple Bookstore and the Walla Walla Poetry Party.

This collection of seven poems is followed by an analysis by poet and publisher of Time Barn Books, Klyd Watkins. 7” X 5 1/2” in size and with a glossy cover, this book is a great introduction to both Potts work and that of the Press.

Anne Kaier
Philadelphia, PA

Anne Kaier’s book is a statement of survival and resilience. InFire, with it’s beautiful cover illustration by Willow Bader and designed by Biddle Design, is very eye-catching. The poems are well crafted and penetrating. Anne suffers from Ichthyosis, a rare skin type, which is most poignantly handled in the piece ‘Scales’ :

In Philadelphia in July
cicadas swell in my garden.

At the Ichthyosis Support Group, we rate each other.
Cindy shakes green scales, chattering.
Etheldra, her face blurred by blisters, shrinks in her wheelchair.
Don’t you just itch after sex, asks Jill.
I stare, like a fish.

In the garden, my phantom Florida woman
sits with Buddha belly on louvered porch.
Birds scream. Teal branches trash the dark.
Water caresses her skin, wet as an alligator’s.

Extremely powerful work. Skintype is a Philadelphia based publisher, and as always I encourage all to support the locals, the independents. They are the backbone of publishing, the ones who find the new voices and bring their work into print. As now, I encourage you to get a copy of Anne Kaier’s book. You won’t be disappointed.

Till soon


Thursday, August 10, 2006



this time :

among the cynics
robert fitterman
Singing Horse Press
Philadelphia, PA

Like all the books this time, ‘among the cynics’ has no page count. It consists of ten poems. Nine very short ones and the longer ‘A Tree Among Trees’. The cover art is by Monika Burczyk. The writing here is crisp, it’s no surprise that Gil Ott published it. The final poem in the chapbook, ‘Fighting in Zagora’ seems appropriate. Using simple language, Fitterman speaks beyond the arch of time,
"Now what
is it then

that I don’t

replace Zagora with Baghdad or Beirut, and the question is still valid and still unanswered.
Robert Fitterman has gone on to a distinguished career, and lives in New York. It’s great to see in chapbooks like this how writers evolve, and I am glad to have gotten this snapshot of his.

Little Sermons of the Big Joy
James Broughton
Insight to Riot
Philadelphia, PA

This little book, and it is that coming in at 5 1/2 X 5 1/2", is a long poem by James Broughton, and published handsomely by Insight to Riot, the Philadelphia Press run by Jim Cory, Janet Mason, and C A Conrad in the early 1990s. Jim Cory edited a collection of Broughton’s work for Black Sparrow Press, and this piece came from that experience.
In its heyday, Insight to Riot, published several fine chapbooks and small books done with care and an artist’s eye. That artist was their collaborator, cover artist and book designer, John Ignarri. Each of the principals of Insight to Riot have gone on to establish themselves in the city of Philadelphia and beyond. They left behind a beautiful legacy.

Souvenir Winner
MacGregor Card
HopHopHop Press

Black paper with red rectangle inlaid to make a distinctive cover, hophophop Press bounded forth with this 2002 chapbook by MacGregor Card. Card came upon a novel concept with this one. There are 9 poems in the collection, and the odd numbered poems are named from buildings designed by A.G. Rizzoli. There are corresponding images throughout the chapbook of some of the buildings the poem titles come from.

This collection is #3 in hophophop Press chapbook series. One hopes that that number has continued to grow!

C A Conrad
Mooncalf Press
Philadelphia, PA

C A Conrad has become a well known fixture in the Philadelphia poetry community for his tireless work developing the "scene", his constant appearance and numerous readings, as well as his accomplishments with Insight to Riot and now his own Press, Mooncalf.
This 2003 slim volume is mostly a "tease" for a larger version of Frank as well as for his growing body of work, as predicted, accurately, in the back of this chapbook. There is a list of five books "coming" including DEVIANT PROPULSION which was published by Soft Skull in 2005.
This version of ‘Frank’ consists of 13 pages of poems in a simple purple paper cover with a large F on the front. The purpose of this "give-away" was to draw attention to his upcoming large work. One would have to say it was a successful move on his part.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Uncle’s South China Sea Blue Nightmare
lamont b steptoe
Troubadour Press
Evanston, IL

This volume is 11 X 8 1/2 and 43 pages with a glossary and bio in back. Photos on cover by Lamont Steptoe and Philip Caligurie. It’s a first edition paper copy (there seems to have been a hard bound version of this book as well) printed on off-white paper. The cover is made of the same paper as the rest of the book, which leaves to crease marks and tears.

It’s important to know that Lamont Steptoe did two tours in Vietnam. He witnessed a lifetime of horror and killing while there and it bleeds through his work. Countless friends and fellow GIs died; days and nights of numbing fear and a tragic sense of loss. As well this collection is an indictment of the racism within the ranks and the hypocrisy of America’s war in Vietnam while at home Afro-Americans, the backbone of the fighting force, was still struggling for equality.

An updated version of this book was published in 2003 by Plan B Press.

Draft X Letters
Rachel Blau DuPlessis
Singing Horse Press
Philadelphia, PA

Rachel Blau DuPlessis has been working on her long series, Drafts, for several years now and this piece, called ‘Draft X Letters’ takes as its starting point a quote from William Carlos Williams and she runs with it. Published by Singing Horse Press, the late Gil Ott’s publishing operation, this book has size and dimension beyond the ‘normal’ sizing. With a cover designed by Julia Blumenreich, the letters call out for attention. The work certainly deserves the attention.

It’s a MUST for anyone collecting the entire collection of Drafts, and for that matter, all her work.

False Start
Assembled by R. Haley
anti-reading series
New York, NY

24 pages. 5 1/2 X 4 1/2 mini-book. On the back it states "a smallest-of-all production for loudmouth collective’s anti-reading series." It sold for $0. Disjointed. Yet – there is something to this ‘madness’.

great short stories of the world
Ryan Eckes (with illustrations by Brandon Eckes)
a feeling production
Philadelphia, PA

Ryan Eckes is making a name for himself in the Philadelphia literary community. Good for him, his a talented chap with the second driest sense of humor I have ever witnessed. His work has impeccable timing and no aftertaste. This tiny red cover chapbook with black figures by his multitalented brother, Brandon (who is also a musician of interest) is 4 1/4 X 7 1/4 – a fairly unconventional sized book.

The same year that this tiny booklet appeared, Ryan joined fellow poets Andrew Bradley, Laura Smith, and myself in forming REPO – a performance poetry posse – which terrorized Philadelphia in 2002 & 2003. For his troubles, Ryan was accepted in the Graduate Writing Program at Temple University. hmmmm (subversive?)

Sebastian Petsu & Mark Price
First printing 2003
Philadelphia, PA

There’s that name again; Sebastian Petsu. This time collaborating with Mark Price. This slim volume, coming in at 11 X 4 1/2 inches and without a page count (I counted 13 but the front page does fold open twice) is an interesting collection of Sebastian’s writings and the Ralph Steadman-like ink work of Price is spellbinding in its complexity and bizarre view of the city (of Philadelphia)

Glad I got a copy.

Part of
Hiram Larew
2000 winner of Baltimore Artscape Literary Arts Award for Poetry
Norton Coker Press

5 1/2 X 11. This odd sized book was the 2000 winner of the Baltimore Artscape Literary Arts Award for Poetry. There is a blurb from the Mayor of Baltimore at the time as well as an acknowledgment that funding for this book came from the Maryland Humanities Council. 21 pages. Similar use of typewriter letters as in DuPlessis’s book yet to the opposite effect. In ‘Part of’ the letters blur as do the lines while in ‘Draft X Letters’ the use of the letters is much more random with wide gaps of open whiteness. The designer of this book expresses the consistency of the use of fractured letters throughout. Not surprisingly, that designer was Cornerstone Advertising (of Baltimore?)

till next time
s - a - m

Thursday, June 29, 2006


The Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692
Leo Bonfanti
New England Historical Series
Pride Publishing
Wakefield, MA

This 63 page volume offers a concise and yet thorough account of the final witch trials in America, those taking place in Salem in 1692. As told by Leo Bonfanti, a writer of several volumes of New England history, all in the same format, this book holds the weight of those matters without pandering or offering sweetened explanations. The cover art depicts the moment of one of the celebrated denouncements of one of those "witches". It’s a well made volume. Certainly not poetic intentionally, I could see Susan Howe using it as source material for some future work of hers though.

Stephen Ferry
Back East Press
In association with The Los Angeles Poets & Writers Collective
Philadelphia, PA

34 pages, Yellow cover with red lettering for the title – Devour – this collection of confessional work is dedicated to the author’s friends, all of whom, it seems, still live in Los Angeles since none of these poems connected at all with me. Published in 2003, perhaps the author has written work about Philadelphia now. I look forward to THAT collection.

A Germantown Sequence
Robin Hiteshew
Irish Pig Press
Philadelphia, PA

This tiny sliver of a book, 12 pages, in a handsome dark-green cover was produced in 1996. A gem of a collection about a section of the city often overlooked by writers but instrumental to the development of the city and the nation’s early growth. Home to a literate German population, there was a printer who created a German-language bible in this area. Stated in one of the poems within. There is much and deep history in these 12 pages of verse.

I wasn’t around when this book came out. I don’t know how it was greeted by the city’s literati but it really should be on every Philly bookshelf, alongside Daniel Hoffman’s Brotherly Love and if one can find it, The Literary History of Philadelphia by Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer published in 1906. Thanks to you, Robin!

Half My Own and More Someone Else’s
Alice Ginsberg
Hopping Bunny Press
Philadelphia, PA

Alice Ginsberg self published a series of chapbooks in the early 1980s of which ‘Half My Own and More Someone Else’s’ was among the last. 26 pages, with a photo of author at a reception in front of a collection of her other books; these poems have the feel of a much older poet than the one who wrote them.

One can only wonder what might have become of her as a poet, since shortly after bringing out this collection, she retired from poetics for a career in the Humanities followed by motherhood

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Framework by Jeff Vetock
© 1991
Axe Factory Press Phila., PA

The copy of Framework by Jeff Vetock was number 121 of 200 printed. The front cover sports an abstract image in the style of Mondrian. The poet and publisher worked together to create a chapbook that merges visuality with text that in their appearance on the page mirror the visual element throughout. It should not surprise the reader that Vetock quotes Gertrude Stein at the beginning of the book. A mere 20 pages, this collection is stuffed with thoughts, ideas, and sensory ticklers. As well the books has nice paper stock, and is in good condition. I like a well made book.
There are a number of collages throughout the text, all uncredited as is the front cover art. It is possible that all the art came from Vetock but I wouldn’t want to assume. I feel fortunate to have found a copy of this – a true merging of talents by poet and publisher. I wonder how many copies are still floating around?

Mindustrealization by Carl S. Kaucher/ "untitled" by Candace Kaucher

Midustrealization & "untitled"

I believe that trees should not be sacrificed in vain.
In the future, if I feel the efforts of the publisher or self-publishing ‘poet’ are not worth the paper that they are printed on, I will say so : SAVE A TREE

These two are the first use of this adage.

A Portable Bridge
(Poets’ Groove #11)
Sebastian Petsu
Self published Phila, PA

Sebastian Petsu is a multifaceted artist who has dabbled on putting down poets and stories as well. This volume marked the writings of his 2002 trip across the country to Oregon. It was printed in Feb. 2003. Red cover stock paper with twisted photo images on front. A great self-made effort. Another interesting chapbook of text with images. I especially like the piece ‘October 1969 (or 1999)’ . Very Cool.

I see a bright future for Sebastian.

chainbreaker : your favorite bike zine
new orleans, LA
2003 (pre Katrina)

In 2003, a group of New Orleans writers stopped off in Philadelphia on their way to New York. For them it was a roadtrip of writers hawking their considerable wares. Among the items was this 8 3/4 X 7 inch silver covered bicycle zine called ‘chainbreaker’. It’s very good. It’s a self-created publication and looks cheaply made. But the stories and ideas are solid and useful for any urban cyclist. Edited by "Shelley", this zine has more of a regional flare to it than a strictly New Orleans vibe.

Sadly, the city that produced this zine has been remade by Katrina and we can only hope that the writers succeeded and escaped the storm intact….with or without their 10-speeds.

till next time

Thursday, June 15, 2006

from poet & publisher Lou McKee


Like what you are doing with the chap-blog -- but when I tried to respond I was told I needed to create a blog or something -- it is too complicated for me.  I will happily read what you are writing, though.

A broadside is a single sheet sometimes printed on two sides)

A pamphlet is a single sheet with multiple folds (two to sixty self-contained panels) -- and printing can be on both sides

A chapbook is -- above all else -- a book.  It has a cover.  Even if the cover is indistinguishable from the inside pages in weight, color, texture, etc.  Inside the cover there must be a page at least (hence two sides, even if only one is printed upon), otherwise it is simply a folded card (a broadside or pamphlet).  There is no "outside   limit" as to the size of a chapbook, but 46 pages seems as though we are in "book" territory.  A major aspect of the broadside is its production.  They are often, if not usually, published in limited editions -- there are famous examples of single copies (more likely considered book art projects) and twoers or triplets.  Maybe most runs contain 20 to 200 copies.  Often these runs are numbered, assuring the collector of the true limitation.  This is important.  Numbered and signed is often a further limitation -- the sets/groups that are most limited are worth the most.  Last but not least, there is method of production: hand operated letterpress operations are costly because of the time and energy that goes into producing even a single handbound copy.  Many of these productions, books, are works of art.
The value of anything comes from its limitation, how many (or few) exist.  And over time, fewer and fewer survive -- no matter what we are talking about.  The "nice" artsy chapbooks, signed and limited, are probably all being taken care of.  The elusive more chaps are those which were mass produced and cheaply done -- the gold of poetry chaps are those that come from the mimeo-revolution, a period which coincided with the Beats and then the New York School.  Many, many books were issued in cheap productions of work by poets who often later became important and honored writers.  They were often put together for a particular occasion, a reading for example, and so few copies were thought to be needed. 

So what's worth what?  I don't know -- but prizes in my collection (I just pulled over to the shelf nearest me) are by Naomi Shihab Nye, Ed Ochester, Frank O'Hara, Mary Oliver, Toby Olson, Gil Orlowitz, Alicia Ostriker, Gil Ott, Linda Pastan, and others.  For some reason, laying atop this shelf, is a book out of order, A Day for Anne Frank, a single poem chap by C. K. Williams (Philadelphia: Falcon Press 1968) which I see is selling online for $1,000 in an unsigned state -- mine is signed. I bought it new for $1.

I love the small presses, and the chapbook printers especially.  And I appreciate the poets like Robert Bly, William Heyen, Lyn Lifshin, Albert Huffstickler, Stephen Berg, and numerous others who have anywhere from twenty to more than a hundred small limited-edition chaps to their credit.  And I am happy to have learned recently that one of the better presses operating today, Adastra Press in Easthampton, MA, where Gary Metras makes books lovingly by hand, and who has published the likes of Daniels, Ochester, and Ehrhart, will be publishing a chapbook of my translations of Old Irish monastic quatrains in the next year.

Long winded, I know --

All best,

Louis McKee

Thursday, June 01, 2006

2nd posting

Two years before the idea of starting a small press came to me, the
Committee of Small Magazine Editors/Publishers ( COSMEP ) folded. I hadn’t known about this organization until ten years after it’s demise. I found an article about it COSMEP which I found very intriguing, in particular the ending "The end of COSMEP marks the end of an era of small press, but also a beginning. We're on the verge of a period of tremendous opportunities. Now more than ever, we need forums, organizations, where we can work together and share our knowledge and experience."

This reminded me of a quote I came across during the researching of a book I am working on currently : Allen Barnett in 1985 observed that "chapbooks may be doomed by an economy that does not support poetry, or they may flourish as they fill the vacuum caused by major presses turning their backs on poetry altogether."

I would say that chapbooks tap the pulse of the future of literature quicker and with more impact than standard books. More experimentation can happen here, raw voices beacon here.

This time I will look at four more books:

Trade Names Charles Tillman ©2002

the incredible sleeping man rupert wondolowski ©1991

mesostis Amira Hanafi ©2005

"I Hear America Singing" published by C.C. Birchard & Co.
Boston, MA ©1919

Trade Names by Charles Tillman
6 1/2 X 5 1/2.
plain cream cover with B&W illustration on back.
red fly leaf
book was a conceptual piece created in 2001 and distributed FREE around the country. Including as part of the anti-reading performances that members of Ugly Duckling Presse/Loudmouth Collective were presenting in NYC and east coast. I was able to see them and get some of their books when they came to Philadelphia in late Fall 2002.

the artist made this non-linear, randomized text as a exploration of man and machine (which ties in to the illustration on back). The text appears as though tapped out on an old typewriter - old technology - and arranged on the page like paint on a Jackson Pollock canvas. I completely was taken by the look of it and the lack of logical "sense" that it intentionally does not make. It is to be 'read' however the reader choses, the flow of the text comes from the way the reader's eyes float across the page. It is 30 pages – [I had to count them, no page count] - which leads again to a mental leap into the abyss....there is no ORDER here, except that the language is English and that all the words are confined to the page.

100 copies of this book were made and released like dandelion seeds, floating across the country. I was lucky enough to find this one early one, I recommend you try and find a copy for your own!!!!!

the incredible sleeping man by rupert wondolowski
Shattered Wig Press, Baltimore, MD.

I was in Baltimore in May 2000 and read their City Paper to see what was happening that night, and there was a blurb about "a poetry / happening thing" at the 14 Karat Cabaret. Gas Tank Orchestra along with poets from the Shattered Wig Press. This meant rupert wondolowski and cohorts from Normals in Baltimore. The work was prose, odd stories about odd people doing odd things. The thing that most impressed me is that they have been working as a collective there for a number of years (note the publication date)

The cover is a collage is by Liquid Borgnine. There is a red fly leaf inside the cover with stamped images on it. The pieces that make up the collection appeared in different publications previously. Interesting work, and always worth seeing how others present themselves. If you are interested in finding out more about Shattered Wig, go onto Normal’s website. It will lead you in. Baltimore is more than John Waters, ya know!

mesostis Amira Hanafi ©2005

Amira Hanafi is a Philadelphia artist who works with sound and word textures as well as exploring repetition and fragmentation of words, converting them into molecules of understanding. There is something of Russian Constructivism. It’s probably not a coincidence that the work appears on grid paper for the work is plotted as much as written, the words swirl or become dissected; or both. I have seen the visual work she is producing now and it is intense. Well worth checking out.

These books are hand-made so it’s best to place an order and try to patiently wait (I am no good at waiting). I can only imagine where her art takes her from here!!!

"I Hear America Singing" published by C.C. Birchard & Co.
Boston, MA ©1919

Proving once and for all that chapbooks need not have anything to do with poetry, this gem of early 20th century Americana is a song book which appeared the year the first World War ended. It contains120 songs, mostly lyrics with a good deal of sheet music as well. It’s a classic chapbook though; 8 1/2 X 5 1/2. A pretty remarkable find, considering its age and use. There is an image of a crowd of people in front of a large wooden pavilion in a park. The men are all wearing hats. Most of the women are too, as I look at it. There is an orchestra on stage and a conductor is getting the crowd to sing while the band plays. Now those days are long gone. Among the songs within are ‘America the Beautiful’, ‘Columbia Gem of the Ocean’, ‘Dixie’, ‘In the Gloaming’, ‘Yankee Doodle-oodle’, and of course ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’. Brown cover, staples. A listing of other "Music Text Books" by publisher on back. For mixed and unchanged voices.

Till next time


Thursday, May 18, 2006

First Four

First four:

The Phoenician Sailor - Michaele Waters. San Francisco. 1968
tart - Daphne Gottlieb. San Francisco. 2003
Philadelphia Poets – ed. Rosemary Cappello. Philadelphia1988
Hand Crafted – Jen Bryant. Rosemont, PA 2001

The Phoenician Sailor was as all chapbooks are; a sliver of nothing. This ‘sliver’ I saw on a shelf of a used bookstore in Alexandria, VA. It is a timepiece to a scene frozen in memory and history; San Francisco in 1968. The poetry feels of the period; Tarot cards, knights and empresses, war and references to "golden California poppies". An example, from "Stumbling" :

True, Pandora’s box remains
as yet tight-closed
to stifle one last demon,
yet one knows he rests inside.
Frail noises knock against the trunk
from time to time.

The cover is white with black ink drawing of a silhouetted man on the front with the title of the book lettered above the figure. The cover has begun to fade slightly to brown along the top and fold (spine) area. There is a note on the inside back indicating that this is from a 500 copy run by Mount Vernon Press in San Francisco and there is a circle 8 on the inside back cover flap suggesting that it is #8 of those 500. On the title page she has signed the copy above her typed name.

I tried to get more information about the author without success. Another reason to collect chapbooks, it’s a way to preserve these unknown voices who over the passage of time have contributed in one way or another to the flow of literature that we call ‘Our heritage’.

tart is a seven page sampler by Daphne Gottlieb who was touring the country in 2003 in support of her Soft Skull published book called ‘Final Girl’. At the time I was there Poetry and Special Events Coordinator at Robin’s Bookstore and had the opportunity to book a reading of her there. Tart was the eight in a series of chapbooks that Daphne had done over the years. It’s a simple design chapbook. Front cover has the title of the book, an image in the middle which is an uncredited photo triptych. There is contact info on the back cover describing the chapbook and the work of Daphne Gottlieb, and info about Final Girl.
Having a hand-out chapbook as part of a book tour is a clever marketing idea and it shows that Gottlieb has done a good deal of prep work before tackling a national tour.
She is based in San Francisco as well (ah, the Google searches!) Additionally, she read from tart which helps to remind the reader of her voice and delivery, which are outstanding. If you ever get the chance, check out her writing and of course, SEE HER LIVE!!!!

Philadelphia Poets May 1988 Volume 8, Number 10

Philadelphia Poets was and is the brainchild of Rosemary Cappello who began the poetry journal in 1980 and suspended publication of it with this issue in 1988. Over the years, so many of the poets who had helped to create the ‘scene’ in the 1980s have been published here. In this issue alone are works by Peter Krok, who runs the poetry series at MAC, Chris Peditto, who founded Heat Press in Los Angeles, and Eileen Spinelli, who has had a very successful career as a writer of children’s books and as a poet. A mere 28 pages, this journal is stuffed with Philadelphia. It went into hiatus until the spring of 2003 when it returned bigger (with a spine!) and more full of great poetry than ever before. Sometime the phoenix does return more brilliantly than before.

Hand Crafted

Jen Byrant’s 2001 collection of poems on the Nova House Press is a good and short (21 pages) gathering of some of the work to date by Bryant. The 16 poems presented here are crisp and polished. The cover features a drawing of two hands (uncredited) on gray coverstock. Nova House Press has made a series of small collections by Philadelphia area poets Lou McKee and others. I don’t know if they are still publishing but these books are well made and thoughtfully assembled….so I hope that the Press is still active.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

beginning thoughts

By chapbook I mean any printed material between 3 and 48 pages. Anything between 1-3 pages would be a broadside or a pamphlet. Anything over 48 pages would generally be published with a spine and that declassifies it as a "chapbook". The thing about the appearance of a chapbook is that is it easily lost when placed spine-out as most books are in either a bookstore or a library. With the exception of specifically designed book racks that allow for chapbooks to be "face out", or front cover visible, most chapbooks end up little slivers of nothing when displayed normally.

As a publisher who specializes in this form, I am of course drawn to its merits and complications but the reason for this blog is the intense interest I have come to have for chapbooks after having the pleasure of hearing/witnessing the poet Susan Howe present work from her book 'The Midnight' at George Mason University during the spring 2005 term. Hearing her and then purchasing a copy of that book and reading it for myself, did me in.

I was hooked all over again. The chapbook form has contributed to the publishing success of many fine poets and artists over the years and has also been a leading form for the small / DIY publishing firms that have grown through the cracks of the publishing world to present work not being represented elsewhere.

This blog will serve as an investigation into authors, presses, individual books, and the scenes where the work developed. For example, I saw a small chapbook of da levy's work in a used bookstore in Williamsburg, VA selling for $500.00. Why? Primarily due to the scarity of his original work and the fact that he died so young. How many other poets had collections of their work published as chapbooks and then disappeared completely from view? Moved, marriage, changed their lives or died before any recognition came from their efforts?

Fortunately for me, I have been gathering chapbooks for years which makes the beginning of this voyage easier, however I have not yet begun to haunt used bookstores or flea markets, or yard sales in an effort to find those relics lost below the radar screen of public awareness and discuss work that should never have gone missing to begin with.

so, let's begin....