Wednesday, November 19, 2008

blurring the lines

The 5 books I will be writing about this time all blur the line and definition of what makes a "chapbook". Page count traditionally helps to decide what makes a chapbook and all of these books blur that distinction. Sometimes blurring is simply confusing, don't cha think?

Old Bright Wheel
Robert Fanning
The Ledge Magazine and Press
Glendale, NY
© 2003

This is the lead example of the presentation factor in chapbooks that I wish to discuss. I understand the reasoning to make a chapbook into a slender book with a spine, so that it can exist on a bookshelf without completely disappearing into a “sliver of nothing” that chapbooks tend to do, but a 31 page chapbook is a 31 page chapbook regardless what you cover it in….or as.

This was a contest winning book and it looks great, but it’s 31 pages. It’s fudging the line, but it’s beautifully done and the poetry is good. Still….

down under it all
Randy Tomlinson
The Sono Nis Press
Surrey, British Columbia

27 pages, chapbook with spine. Glossy cover with op-art front and photo of author as back cover. Takes up the complete back cover. I am certain that there were reasons to turn this chapbook into a book with a spine, but at 27 pages…’s a chapbook.

At the Border: Winter Lights
Carol Coffee Reposa
Pecan Grove Press
St. Antonio, TX

This chapbook has no page numbers on them, but I counted 89 pages. The font is huge. It ought to have been published with a spine but that means higher costs. Yet sometimes it’s better to pay a bit more for better presentation. This chapbook is a mess. The poetry is unremarkable. I am certain that at the time the author was thrilled to have a book out and I don’t want to minimize that effect on an author. But, looking backwards from my perch of time, it’s a painful reminder that not all books ought to be published and not all publishers should…..some should have gone into the insurance business or sold used cars.

American Proper
Jennifer Merrifield
March Street Press
Greenboro, NC

34 pages. 7 1/2” X 5”. Had this chapbook been “standard size” it would have been even thinner. Some of the poetry here is very good.

I thought having the title of the book and name of the author on the top of each page was unnecessary. If one is holding the book in their hand, they can easily gaze at the front cover and remind themselves of the title and author. Having that on every page is overkill. Distracting.

A Climber’s Guide to the Teton Range
Leigh Ortenburger
self published
Palo Alto, CA

This is a condensed version of the same book but reprinted by author. 144 pages, yellow cover with image of mountain peak on front. Back cover is empty. This sized book is ideal for having in one’s pocket or backpack will climbing, I would imagine. But at 144 pages it is a bit bulky. Full of maps of mountains and possible climbing routes. Perfect for climbers.

Monday, November 03, 2008

chapbooks 27

The Alley Cat on the Page
Kevin Corn (ed.)
Writers’ Center Press
Indianapolis, IN

Having been influenced by Michael Dirda, Jack Matthew (author of Booking Pleasure) , and Umberto Eco as well as writers of a relatively new genre of bibilomystery, I now look at each of my little mentions or reviews as something like detective notes. Each book telling the story of not only the author, or in the case of an anthology like this, of the authors but also the publisher and the city it was printed in and the time period that it was printed in.

Here’s a 38 page anthology of poets who were part of a reading series in Indianapolis at the end of the 1970’s with brief bios in the back as well as an intro by editor Kevin Corn. The amazing thing about this is how some of the poets who are in this chapbook have become well known poets, like Alice Friman, Elizabeth Cohen, and Marcia Blumenthal Lewton among others. Others have disappeared but had this precise moment of recognition for themselves – back in 1980.

Deborah Burnham
Seven Kitchens Press
Lewisburg, PA

New publisher, new series. 7” x 5” book, well designed and beautifully made. 24 pages. Poetry is very good. Worth checking out – go to their website,

The Hound of Heaven
Francis Thompson
Morehouse-Barlow Co.
Wilton, Connecticut

Tiny book, 5 1/2” x 4”, illustrated by Jean Young. A rare and classic early post-war chapbook. 29 pages. Interesting little book indeed.

Love Among the Mad
Giles Mitchell
University of North Texas Press
Denton, Texas

This is another in the Trilobite Poetry chapbook series of the University of North Texas which I mentioned in a previous posting. Pages unnumbered. Signed by poet, Giles Mitchell. #78 of 400 printed. Described as a poem sequence.

I Googled Dr. Mitchell and found that he died in 2003. He had been at North Texas for 40 years and was the co-chair of their English department. He was 74 years old at the time of his death. Glad to have this chapbook in my collection now.