Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Poets Press

I once bought a copy of Kirby Doyle's chapbook published by the Poets Press but I couldn't stand it (think of the annoying woman's voice in "Singing in the Rain"). So, I sold it. But I now had no chapbooks published by the Poets Press and I do want at least one, at least one book that Diane di Prima was involved with making. And as it happened, I went back to the same bookstore where I got the Doyle and bought three chapbooks :

John's Book
Alan Marlowe
Introduction by Robert Creeley
The Poets Press
New York, NY

Cover photo of Marlowe, Creeley, and di Prima taken by Daniel Entin. It's curious to read any book written and published in the 1960's, as the poets attempt to be "new and different" by reviving literary traditions from the Middle Ages. The wearing of robes, for example, on the cover is a curious image as well but very fitting of the times. The poems here are mostly personal and not "telling of universal thoughts". My sense is that Marlowe and di Prima were involved in more than a professional way. Not certain that these poems on their own would warrant publication otherwise. It's a rarity, it's in fantastic condition. It's quite a find.

Poems 1957-1959
Diane di Prima
The Poets Press
New York, NY

The poems in this collection were chosen by Alan Marlowe from notebooks. Unnumbered pages. Cover drawing by George Herms. Great poems.

Seven Love Poems from the Middle Latin
Diane di Prima (translator)
The Poets Press
New York, NY
©1967 (2nd printing)

unnumbered pages, in Latin and English. Cover drawing by Brett Rohmer. From the esteemed collection of Mark Greene, Philadelphia. Chapbook is nearly perfect condition.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

chapbooks 38

Allan Peterson
Bateau Press
Northampton, MA

One of the most handsome, well made chapbooks that I have seen to date. 20 pages. Handprinted cover. Good poetry, presented extremely well. Find it, buy it, read it!!!

Tony’s Scrap Book
Anthony Wons
Self published
New York City, NY

Back "in the day" of radio broadcasting in the 1920's - 1940's, Anthony Wons was a well-known and respected radio personality. So much so that he was the focus of a 1932 Time magazine article, from which comes "...One volume, however, called Tony's Scrap Book had sold 225,000 copies, was still going fairly strong last month when Publishers Reilly & Lee issued Tony's Scrap Book No. 2. These, along with another published last November with the title 'R' You Listenin'?, are the product of Anthony ("Tony") Wons, a radio performer who has broken all records of Columbia Broadcasting System for sustained fan mail (2,000 letters a week). Self-styled a "peptomist," Wons is regarded by a shuddering minority as the most offensive broadcaster on the air. To his enormous radio following, principally in rural regions, he is a comforter of rare understanding who drops in for a friendly chat. To his critics he is an intruder who slithers out of the loudspeaker, puts his arm across his listener's shoulder and assures him that "all is well."

Broadcaster Wons' books are collections of odds & ends which he recites alternate mornings in the "Tony's Scrap Book" period, and every evening on the Camel Quarter Hour between Morton Downey's ballads. The two called Tony's Scrap Books are anthologies of noble thoughts, snatches of homely humor, tributes to beauty, diligence, nature, perseverance, motherhood, home, etc. Some are from Edgar Albert Guest, Dr. Frank Crane, Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Many, of unknown origin, are favorites of listeners who send them in. Here and there are a few lines from Shelley, Browning, Whitman, A. E. Housman. Wons puts them through a microphone in a voice hushed, saponaceous, insinuatingly folksy, with an ingratiating "Are yuh listenin'?" or "Isn't that pretty?" 'R' You Listenin'? is a book of extracts from "Tony's Own Philosophy," sermonets which he sometimes broadcasts."

The copy I have is from 1930 which is curious as it is a chapbook filled with poems and anecdotes as well as photos of Mr. Wons. As he was receiving 2000 letters a week, it's not surprising that the image on the top of each page in this collection features letters and a scrap book. 58 pages. The most curious thing about this IS that it is a chapbook. 1930 is fairly early in the chapbook development in the United States. This copy is in excellent condition.

These Extraordinary People
Grzegorz Wroblewski
Liverpool, UK

Contrast the previous chapbook with this seemingly Xeroxed collection. 32 pages, white paper. Nearly generic cover design. The poet is Polish, the work has been translated by three individuals. One of the blurbs on the back of the book is by the publisher, seems cheeky to me. The poetry itself is pretty good. I recommend reading this poet. But the chapbook, no great shakes.

Monday, October 05, 2009

a matter of debate

Recently we moved to new digs, which is why it took so long for this entry to appear.

At the beginning of September, I was asked to participate in and to curate an hour for the Art in the Park festival put together by the Towson Arts Collective. One of those who organized the event was Christophe Casamassima who during the afternoon railed on a bit about being "DIY" and raising self publishing as the ultimate goal of everyone concerned. Well, I am a publisher as well as a poet, as well as a blogger, as well as - etc. and it was the publisher in me that took issue with the "anyone can do it for free" line that Casamassima was uttering. First of all, he had created a series of small chapbooks FREE, but they weren't free exactly : someone paid for their publication, it just wasn't Cassamassima. He was using the facilities of the college where he teaches. Someone paid for their making. The students through their enrollment? The fees charged? The college endowment? It wasn't free - it was just free to him.

Now, I say this as a first generation punk rock/DIY guy, someone who believes firmly in doing it myself whenever possible. But it all costs something. Even if you use a xerox machine. Nothing is FREE. The means of production have costs involved. I say this now as a publisher for over 10 years of Plan B Press. The idea of a "free lunch" is just an idea. One not based on reality, in any way shape or form.

Additionally, not every THING ought to see the light of day. Not everyone who has a collection of poems or a bit of prose should be in print. There is this thing called "editorial control". There needs to be some filtering. There needs to be someone at the brakes, and that person needs to pull the switch when necessary. At Plan B Press, we have to decline most of what we receive since it doesn't mean the standards we have set for ourselves and the work that would be imprinted by us that would represent our Press. Our running man doesn't just run like a chicken without its head. He has a direction, and so do we.

Other companies have different policies, but remember I just used to the words "companies" and "policies". To a lot of folks, publishing is a business. With a capital B. Some of these publish damn-near-everything. Some are indeed "vanity presses" (YOU pay for your work to appear in print). And on and on it goes.

The main reason that I have established a "SAVE A TREE" distinction in my rating system in this blog is because there are times that a book is so bad one wonders why a tree was killed for its making. As I said : not everything should be in print. I wish to GOD that someone had had the balls to stop Mein Kampf and to burn the copy sent to them!

Enough of this for now. It's an issue that I feel strongly about. The same way I feel about e-books and Michael Bolton (and John Bolton, come to think of it..)

These are the chapbooks I picked up or were handed at day in early September :

Ladies Love Outlaws.
Buck Downs
Edge Books
Washington, DC

Do they? Do ladies really love outlaws?
Unnumbered pages. Clipart cover. Very low tech production. eh (shrug)

Menagerie for Louis & Erza (Horse)

laa (Gary Snyder)

Incidents i-iv

End Lines
'Harmonium' by Wallace Stevens
truncated by
Christophe Casamassima

Four of Casamassima's "free-for-all" chaps. Various sizes. No publication info, no contact info. Stealth publishing (described above). Some of the work is interesting. I would like to hear the poet READ it aloud.

Monday, September 07, 2009

address to send your chapbooks

if you are interested in having your chapbooks reviewed, discussed, mentioned :

please send to :

2714 Jefferson Dr.
Alexandria, VA 22303


Thursday, September 03, 2009

chapbooks 37

Chapbooks 37

This time I will be discussing two chapbooks, both with an Ann Michael connection:

St. Andrew’s Head
Kevin Pilkington
Camber Press
Bronxville, NY

I got this over the summer from Ann Michael in a significant packet of material. Pilkington is an award-winning poet who has taught in New York City area colleges, and the Press has been in operation since 2003 so this may have been one of their first chapbooks.

30 pages, quite handsomely done.

Nervous Halo
Patrick Porter
The Academic & Arts Press
Pueblo, CO

Patrick Porter is an American singer/songwriter, novelist, poet, and painter. He began as a musician and has drifted toward the written word. He has recently been described as the best minimalist writer in America today. This is his second book, published by Paul Dilsaver’s The Academic & Arts Press.

This copy is pristine. It doesn’t appear to have been opened. 36 brilliant pages. Staple-bound. Mixed media collage image on front attributed to Gilles Brenda. This is a stunningly well made chapbook. However, I learn from Ann Michael that Dilsaver died in 2001, shortly after this excellent chapbook was produced. A tragic loss to the fellowship of small press publishers everywhere.

Porter, on the other hand, has grown into something of a modern “renaissance” man. I don’t know if Patrick has taken to sculpture or performing ballet, but I also won’t put it past him.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

chapbooks 36

Ernest Hemingway : A Critical Essay
Nathan Scott, Jr.
William B Eerdmans /Publishers
Grand Rapids, Michigan

46 page tract looking into the Christian values and views expressed in the works of Hemingway. You know, I have never thought of Ernest Hemingway as a redeemable Christian, nor a role model in any sense of the word. Aren’t Christians against suicide?

A tree was felled for this booklet, what a waste of a tree!

Big Game Animals
Bill Stevens
Federal Cartridge Corporation
Minneapolis, Minnesota

23 page color booklet of animals that can be killed by hunters. Oh Boy!! What fun!! The publisher is also a company that makes bullets that, um, kill the animals listed in the booklet. A tree was cut down for this? Horrible.

Speaking of horrible……

Smallum opus of edwin schur
ninth street press
new york, NY

Edwin Schur is an emeritus professor of Sociology at NYU. He is the author of several nonfiction books. He began to write “poetry” at the age of 67. He frequented the West Chester University Poetry Conference. His “poetry” is primarily epigrams. He mentions the work of J V Cunningham, whom I am familiar with as I have a small collection of Cunningham’s books.

This 21 page self published chapbook is a dread to look at and the truth is I am not a fan of epigrams. These are not particularly good epigrams. It looks like a Xerox special. More trees died to fluff this author’s ego. A shame, really.

Manhattan Poetry Review #6
Winter-Spring 1985-86
Manhattan Poetry Review
New York, NY
© 1986

67 pages. Staple-bound. Grey cover. Featuring established poets as well as a 30 page section of new poets. What I find fascinating is the range of poets within as well as the fact that none of the “new poets” are ones that, 23 years later, I have ever heard of. Those I have; David Ignatow,
Diane Wakoski, Duane Locke – their work is mostly very good. There are some interesting typos throughout and a few missing bios in the back of the book but as a timepiece, this collection is quite worthwhile.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

chapbooks 35

Up to now I have kept myself within the "adult" parameters of chapbook offerings, but I found this cool 1968 Golden Book which is within the chapbook ideal so I wanted to acknowledge it.

The Cowboy Book
Mel Crawford
Golden Press
New York, New York
(c) 1968

Unnumbered pages, color images throughout. Okay, it's the shape that got me. It's very cool and I am sure that kids loved it when it came out. There isn't a "story" here but it's an early reader so having a story is less important than reading the words. Really interesting all the same!

X. J. Kennedy
Illustrations by James Watts
The Trumpet Club
New York, New York

A collection of poems for young readers, with illustrations by James Watts. 42 pages. Staple-bound.

Aleutian Islands: The U.S. Army Campaigns of World War II
George L MacGarrigle
U.S Government Printing Office
Washington, DC

26 page history of the US assault on the Aleutian Islands during WW II to drive out the Japanese is here presented with color maps and B&W photos. Great for World War II buffs.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

need chapbooks to review

need new material - shucks I have written about so many already, my supply has been diminished! (or I could simply venture out into the cruel world of second hand stores in hope for the best)


s - a - m

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

chapbooks 34

the fishes of Nebraska
Jerry & Larry Morris and Larry Witt
Lou Ell : Photographer
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Lincoln, NE
(c) 1972

98 page staple-bound "chapbook" detailed listing of the fish that live in the watershed of the state of Nebraska. Color photos throughout of more fish than I had previously conceived possible for a state to have - never really thought about it. Then again I am not a fisherman

For those who are anglers, this is a great book.

Poems to Julia
Ilya Shambat
Shadow Ink Publications
Excelsior Springs, Missouri
(c) 2003

36 page chapbook. I Googled the Press; not terribly impressed with their operation. That's beside the point. Or perhaps that's exactly the point. No editorial control. How is this not a vanity press? I don't know. There are multiple chapbooks by a handful of people here. Friend of the publishers? One can draw their own conclusions.

This book feels like a xeroxed product. A tree was wasted making this chapbook. Beware what lurks in the "Shadow Ink".

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

fifteen false propositions about god - Jack Spicer

There's a bookstore I frequent in southeastern PA that has a dwindling collection of Beat Generation books and chapbooks from the private collector who has bought up chapbooks and books by Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg as well as lesser known members of that "generation". Among the material that is still there, I found this chapbook. 1974, Manroot Book, South San Francisco, CA. Cover design by Robert Berner. Unnumbered pages. The particular copy that I found, interestingly enough, seems to have some critical errors in it. For while the title of the chapbook is fifteen false propositions about god, the copy I have has only 13 such "propositions" as there is no #3 nor a #14. Each page where a numbered poem ought to be is blank.

Now, maybe, just maybe, all copies are like that. But I think I have an "oh-oh" printer mistake. Making the chapbook that much more rare. Potentially.

I am not the largest fan in the world of Jack Spicer, but a chapbook like this doesn't appear everyday so....

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Prose & Cons by Felix Pollak

Prose & Cons
Felix Pollak
Juniper Press
LaCrosse, WI
© 1983

I found this chapbook at the local library being offered FREE. Hey, I thought, it’s a chapbook. What the heck? Well, the heck is that this is a beautifully made chapbook, olive green cover, letter pressed. 52 pages. 6 pieces. Essays or pieces of longer work. Nothing about the publisher or the author so I Googled them and found :

About the Publisher: John Judson, 1930-

John Judson has spent his career encouraging others in the creation, publication, and appreciation of poetry. He was born on September 9, 1930, in Stratford, Connecticut. He received his undergraduate degree in English from Colby College, Maine, and his M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. Before finding his niche as poet, publisher, editor, and teacher, he played semi-professional baseball, served with the Air Force in Korea, and worked as an electronics technician.
In 1963, he started the Juniper Press and Northeast, a little magazine. In 1965, he brought his press, his magazine, and his family to La Crosse, where he joined the English Department at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Under the direction of John Judson, Juniper Press and Northeast Magazine supported contemporary writing. It published little known contemporary authors, poets, and artists -- especially those from the Midwest -- at a time when Midwestern authors were ignored in favor of Eastern writers. A series that he edited and published on Juniper Press, Voyages to the Inland Seas, Essays and Poems, is an important source for the study of Midwestern Poetry during the 1970's.
Juniper Press began as a family affair. It operated out of his home in La Crosse and published small books, chapbooks, and limited edition fine-press books. Judson published many of his own poems on Juniper Press as well as many other poems in periodicals and by other publishers.
He encouraged Murphy Library at UW-La Crosse to collect little magazines and contemporary Midwestern poetry. This collection became nationally recognized. He sent his creative writing students to study the poetry and appreciate contemporary writing. Judson's influence included the undergraduates he taught in his poetry classes and those he encouraged in little magazine production.
Currently, John Judson is retired from the University of Wisconsin. In 2000, as an indication of his continuing influence, the Council for Wisconsin Writers awarded John Judson the Christopher Sholes Award for long service and support of writing.
Selected Works
Voyages to the Inland Sea: essays and poems (several volumes in this series)
Northeast, 1963 (current issue Jan. 2002)
Ash Is The Candle's Wick, 1974

West of Burnam, South of Troy (radio drama), 1973

North of Athens, 1980

Letters to Jirac II, 1980

August On A Lone Bassoon, 1981

The Carrabassett, Sweet William, was My River, 1981

Muse(sic), 1992

Inardo Poems, 1996

Three Years Before The Braves Left Boston, 2000

About the Author: A touching tribute to Felix Pollak is located at Felix Pollak Tribute

The Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry is awarded annually to the best book-length manuscript of original poetry submitted in an open competition. The award is administered by the University of Wisconsin–Madison English department, and the winner is chosen by a nationally recognized poet. The resulting book is published by the University of Wisconsin Press. The prize was founded in 1994 and honors Felix Pollak, a popular Wisconsin poet and former curator of the Rare Book Room and Little Magazine Collection at the University of Wisconsin–Madison Memorial Library. Among his best-known books are The Castle and the Flaw, Tunnel Vision, and Benefits of Doubt.

Usually I run into dead ends when attempting to research the history of a chapbook, so having so much to choose from is a pleasant surprise. If all Juniper Books were this well made and attractive, they ought to be extremely collectible. I tip my quill to Mr. Judson for operating the Press and creating such lovely work.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Previously, I had mentioned the chapbooks in the short series that was LiMbo bar&grill. I had all but one of the chapbooks and their broadside. Well, shortly after posting my last entry I located a copy of Ariel Dawson's Poems for the Kazan Astrologer, 1983 (#2 in the series). I located the copy on Amazon and it was going for much. So I quickly purchased it and then waited breathlessly for its arrival.

I had by that time realized what Ariel Dawson had done subsequent to the publication of this chapbook; an article by her on what she termed "new formalism" had led to the creation of a movement by that name, and among other things, the West Chester (PA) Poetry Conference which is a nerve center for this particular school of poetics. Funny thing was that Dawson meant the term as a dig and yet it's become an academic shield for those within its camp.

When the chapbook arrived, I noticed that the seller had not described the book well. There was writing on the title page. The seller had said there were pencil markings, which was true....someone had once priced to book in pencil but additionally there was an inscription in ink there and it was signed.....BY ARIEL DAWSON!

I wrote Ann Michael, the publisher, about the find and the inscription and it turns out that the copy I found was the copy from the poet to her inspiration - to her actual "Kazan Astrologer" - if ever there was a copy to have it was this one. It had the best provenance. Terribly lucky am I at times, and this would be one of them.

Psychedelic Magazine #1
Presentation copy
Printed in Japan
(c) 1982

this tiny 4 X 2 3/4" booklet is a visual book of some type. I can't really see what it was meant to be. It's Japanese with text - random collage text - in partial english. It's odd, it's cool. It's interesting; but I have no idea what it's "about".

Birds of Florida
Francis Wyly Hall
self published
Neptune Beach, FL
(c)1972 - 11th reprint

This seems to be an extremely successful self published chapbook, first published in 1945 this copy was from 1972 in its eleventh reprint. Illustrated throughout with drawings of books from the state of Florida. 34 pages. One color plate (inside front) the rest B&W. Very informative.

Thoughts and Memories of an Old Cowhand
Buster Lynde
self published

Handsome chapbook of rhyming poems about this cowpoke's life in the Wyoming area.

Unchained Verse
Anamika Huq Lilly
Dhaka, Bengladesh

The month of February in Bengladesh sees a month long book fair and this poet is well received there. My copy of this thin booklet is signed and inscribed in English and Bengali. It was printed in Dhaka. I find myself collecting books of poetry from around the world and won't be satisfied till I have a book published from every country on the planet.

Cheery Ideals
collected by Everett Thorton Brown
The Acmegraph Company
Chicago, IL

I got this book via ebay because I viewed a photo of this "chapbook" and the date of the book and frankly was unaware of there being "chapbooks" like this prior to the mimeograph revolution of the 1950s & 1960s. The book itself, all 63 pages of it, is a collection of inspirational phrases collected by Mr. Brown but the design and production of this chapbook is excellent. I did a quick Google search for info about the publisher and it seems they did postcards and other printing operations during this period of time. While the colors of the flowers on the front cover have faded over time, the construction of the chapbook is still a marvel to behold. The cloth tied binding looks like new. This is really something!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

the Ann Michael stash

The poet Ann Michael is someone who I had been hearing about for some time in my Philly-based poetry chapbook history research project (long winded? oh yeah, the coffee is perking now). She had moved from Philadelphia area to outside of Allentown, PA at the same time I had moved from that same area into Philly. Cris-cross.

We exchanged email addresses and then years later, I got to hear her hear at a big reading in Washington DC during April 2009. She promised to send me "some stuff", and true to her word, early this month she did just that.

I got 3 chapbooks from her own imprint, LiMbo bar&grill books, and 2 volumes of work by her co-founder of that Press, David Dunn, who died of Diabetes in 1999. The books of David's work were :

Song to be Hummed While Sleeping, poems selected and edited by Ann Michael. Published by the academic & arts press of Pueblo, Colorado in 2001. A thin 20 page collection of Dunn's work. (I had not heard of this Press before receiving it)

the lock of land, 71 page book with illustrations by Wayne Hogan. Published in 2006 by Kings Estate Press of St. Augustine, FL.

The 3 chapbooks by Michael and Dunn's press were:

Notes for a Journey by Merle Molofsky. Printed in 1985. Unnumbered pages.

At Winter's End by Alfred Encarnacion. Printed in 1986. Unnumbered pages.

The Swan King a collaborative mythology by David Dunn and Ann Michael. Published in 1982. Book design and artwork by Harriet Jahr.

I also got Michael's 2004 chapbook, More than Shelter.

Friday, April 17, 2009

a notable quote

"Bookbuyers convinced us we must offer larger and thicker books while retaining the spirit of spontaneity. Unfortunately, the bigger the book the less spontaneous it can be."

Noel Young
Capra Press

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Virgogray Press

I received a lot of 4 chapbooks by Virgogray Press out of San Antonio, Texas. They were:

The Terrorist
Michael Aaron Casares

Fresh Lotus Rehab
Marc Olmsted
vg –07

Ghost Roads
Michael Aaron Casares

Vegas Implosions
Chris D’Errico

This is a young Press. I applaud their drive and motivation. They have a lot to learn and I am sure that they have already leapt into that wicked learning curve. One can’t help to.

This Press certainly fills a need, albeit not one that I seek to plunge into regularly. I am glad that Virgogray has brought together these unique voices. They have discovered their niche, and isn’t that all any publisher can seek to do?

I would only comment that the presentation of the chapbooks themselves need a little attention to detail, as it were. The covers are glossy. None of the pages are trimmed. The photos of the authors inside are pixilated as hell. These books smack of being a POD but I don’t know that for a fact. While the covers are colorful, there is a rushed element to them that feels very slap-dash.

But again, the Press is young and will evolve in time (that’s the great hope anyway, I am sure that some people said that of Random House for their first 25 years of operation as well)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Chapbooks 32

From Gutenberg to The Cuneo Press
Otto M. Forkert
The Cuneo Press
Chicago, IL

Found this small chapbook in Brooklyn. It’s an interesting directed history of printing, subtitled “A Historical Sketch of the Printing Press”. The author was an instructor at the School of Art Institute of Chicago and wrote glowingly about the Cuneo Press, which published the chapbook.

Several famous illustrations throughout the text. The Cuneo Press was one of the largest commercial printing plants in the country. The company was in business for 70 years, closing when owner and founder John Cuneo died in 1977. As of the publication, however, Cuneo Press was at the top of their game with plants across the United States.

Informative but slanted, good chapbook. 30 pages.

Souffle Spectaculars
Irene Kirshman
Potpourri Press
Greenboro, NC

I haven’t done a cookbook till now. This 47 page chapbook deals with souffl├ęs. It was illustrated by Pamela Marsh. It’s a little “hippy-dippy” but that’s cool.

In the Spirit of Shaker
Exhibition Booklet
John C Campbell Folk School
Brasstown, NC

Very small gallery exhibition booklet. Chapbooks come in all shapes and sizes.

Pamela Forey
Shire Natural History Series
Great Britain

Well made chapbook from England with color photos throughout. 24 pages. Also a few B&W illustrations. Great resource for shroomers.

Book Stalking at Home & Abroad
Jake Zeitlin
Southern Methodist University
Dallas, TX

This handsome chapbook was designed and created for the 25 anniversary of a lecture given at SMU by Mr. Zeitlin on the subject of book finding. Mr. Zeitlin was world renowned for his abilities in the field and had been instrumental in the growth of SMU’s highly regarded library. Well made chapbook, unnumbered pages. Cover illustration by Barbara Whitehead.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

More about Cold Chair Books

“About cold chair-my collaboration with Bill (Walton) lasted about two years-as far as I can remember Bill printed 5 chapbooks-I teach at the university of the Arts now-have been here since the 70's. Playing the game in 1976, Cock Dreams in 1977 (mine), and three other books that don't even mention cold chair but were part of the project…. All in 1977-Margaret Levinson, It is Agenst (sic) the Law, Jet Wimp, The Drowning Place, and Alexandra Grilikhes, City Poems.”

These comments came from Jack De Witt in response to questions I asked about Cold Chair Books. I am pleased to say that of the 5 chapbooks mentioned, I have 3 of them now. De Witt is the Head of the Division of Liberal Arts at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He and Bill Walton created 5 unique chapbooks over a two year span from 1976-1977. All wedding image with text.

I have already written about Playing the Game which was my introduction to Cold Chair books, and now I have :

City Poems
Alexandra Grilikhes
Cold Chair Books
Philadelphia, PA

This 7” X 5” tiny chap is a marvelous blend of images with poems by Grilikhes. The project was accomplished at Moore College of Art in Philadelphia in May 1977 by three artists; Leah McCloskey, Angeline McMillan, and Ann Selvig. 200 copies of this limited edition were made. Interspersed among the poems are photos and collages of a cityscape. The front and back covers are also graced with a montage of pictures of an urban environment. Fantastic little booklet, and terribly rare, which explains my guilt in considering library theft. I did NOT steal the copy which still sits in the stacks at the Free Library, I am grateful to have gotten my own copy. This is priceless.

Cock Dreams
Jack Dewitt
Cold Chair Books
Philadelphia, PA

Done at approximately the same time as the previous chapbook, this collection of poems by Dewitt again blends image with text in a way that one might expect from people who teach at an Art school. Walton and Dewitt have taken classroom theories and applied them to actual physical things, these wonderful little chapbooks. Dewitt’s book has a few more pages but throughout this book as well as images that relate to the text. Always a good thing!

One thing I did notice is that the covers appears to be of the same stock, suggesting they were made at the same time and at the same location. Probably at the Moore College campus. These are genuine treats for the senses. Anyone who appreciates “Artist Books” will also want to track these down for their collections, absolute gems!

The search continues for the remaining two. I look forward to completing the set!!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Chapbooks 30

Poems From Some Latins
Leonard Cirino
Poetic Page
Madison Heights, MI

Sometime in 2008 I found a lot of chapbooks by unknown (to me) poets including Leonard Cirino. It was a lot of 3 chapbooks; 2 by Cirino and another which has been used in a book decomposition arts project. One of the two by Cirino was this 1992 handsome chapbook published by Poetic Page with cover illustration by Eduardo Smisson. 20 pages. Cirino has nearly 20 books out now, this was among the earlier ones. Very good indeed.

The Truth is not Real
Leonard Cirino
Adastra Press
Easthampton, MA

This small (6 1/2” X 3 3/4”) booklet is a single poem, beautifully presented letterpress printed chapbook. Fully illustrated. Unnumbered pages. This tiny book is a serious gem – look for it. If any books by Adastra Press are as handsome as this, buy them as well! This is near perfection of the art form. Highly recommended.

Swedish Music
Bo Alander
The Swedish Institute
Stockholm, Sweden

This finely made chapbook is actually taken from a larger manuscript by Paul Britten-Austin. Complete with photos, including an image of Jenny Lind who was remarkably well known in the United States during the Nineteenth century. 48 pages. Printed in Sweden. Very informative. For those interested in Swedish music, this is a keeper.

Watching Sparrows
Ronald Baatz
Kamini Press
Stockholm, Sweden

Another compact chapbook from Kamini Press with cover image by Henry Denander and it’s just wonderful . The copy I received is a bit of a tease for a big book coming out later this year called “Bird Effort”. Look forward to that. I like what Mr. Denander is doing with his little press.

The Geology of the South Unit
Theodore Roosevelt
National Memorial Park
Wilson Laird
Theodore Roosevelt Nature and History Association
Medora, North Dakota

This short chapbook with the long title comes as a reprint to a 1950 piece published in the North Dakota History journal. 19 pages. Stuffed full of photos, maps, and charts on the Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park. Written by Wilson Laird who served as State Geologist. Interesting bit of history and geology.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

chapbooks 29

Pattie McCarthy
Potes & Poets Press
Elmwood, CT

This chapbook appears to have been made around the time Ms. McCarthy completed Grad School. It has quips on the back from two of her heroes, Rachel Blau DePlessis and Ron Silliman. A few of the pieces had appeared in ixnay journal. I mention this because these all represent or present a particular style of poetics that I acknowledge but don't exactly admire. Once upon a wintry day, I attended a poetry reading in Lancaster, PA held by a group of poets who sounded exactly alike. Their phrasing, their speech patterns, their wording was all vertically the same. I remember how I thought of the word "precise" when I recall that reading, and the endless poem I wrote about it contains the line "precision devoid of blood makes no sound/".

Yes, this collection is precise and not written for the 'common reader'. It was a graduate school thesis in chapbook form. It does not have a pulse. It is brilliant and unapproachable. Within a certain circle of Ivy League writing programs (Brown, U Penn) this work would have been well received. I don't think that poetry ought to be read with a dictionary under my arm, however, nor a copy of Bulfinch's Mythology.

The cover was created using period clipart which is, well, very pixelated. I know people who covet this chapbook as it was at the beginning of her writing career. Contact me, I will sell you this copy.

Warrior Writers
Edited by Lovella Calica
Iraq Veterans Against the War
Burlington, VT

I found this chapbook in a second hand shop in Fairfax, VA. Brown lettering on plain brown cover. Incredible collection of writings about and against the US military involvement in Iraq by some of the soldiers who have served there. 29 pages. Anyone interested in this organization should contact them online at IVAW.

Various Sex Acts
Kostas Anagnopoulos
Insurance Editions
Jackson Heights, NY

I am often pleasantly surprised by the chapbooks sent to me from Insurance Editions. However, this one didn’t impress me beyond the look of the chapbook itself. Very well done, but the poetry didn't connect with me.

Too Close to Count
Jennifer Thomas
Self published

This thin little chap came from the dusty recesses of the Robin’s basement. It was published in 1973. No publisher name, no info, no contact info. No page count. Very mimeo – produced. I look at this and can almost hear the machine at work.

Draft, Unnumbered: Precis
Rachel Blau DuPleassis
Vancouver, British Columbia

Fantastic chapbook. First time I have seen anything by Nomados and it’s simply a pleasure to hold a well made book as this. The poems are wonderful, a must for anyone aware of and a reader of DuPlessis’ on-going “Draft” project. A real collector’s item.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Chapbooks 28

Playing the Game
John DeWitt
Designed by Keith Newhouse
Cold Chair Books
Moore College of Art
Philadelphia, PA

This small, even by chapbook standards, is 4 pages. FOUR. This is a single poem with art work and design by Keith Newhouse. I found no online presence for “Cold Chair Books”. The much published poet John DeWitt, who has taught at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia since the 1970's, informed me that he was part of Cold Chair Books. Along with Bill Walton of Moore College, they produced a number of fine chapbook including one I have held in my hands before (wanting to steal it from the library too, bad boy) Alexandra Grilikhes City Poems . I will have to do more research, but I have to say that Cold Chair Books was well ahead of their time and I am grateful to have one of their incredible booklets on my shelf!

Dying to be Released
Francis Davis
Word of Mouth chapbook series
Meridian Writers Cooperative
Philadelphia, PA

There is great history in this chapbook. Meridian Writers Cooperative was active through most of the 1980s in Philadelphia. They published a few collections of poetry and some chapbooks of short fiction, and this is among the latter. Meridian was run by Joy Stocke, Sandy Crimmins, Fran Metzman, and Denise Larrabee.

Their chapbook series was called ‘Word of Mouth’ and this was #2 in the series. Francis Davis has gone on to publish several books, including In the Moment (1986), Outcats (1990), The History of the Blues: The Roots, the Music, the People From Charley Patton to Robert Cray (1995), and Bebop and Nothingness: Jazz and Pop at the End of the Century (1996). One of only 50 printed. Wonderful little chapbook. Unnumbered.

corporate geese
Christopher William Purdom
226 Press
printed by

Just received this. 27 pages. This is volume 5 in what may be an endless series of self-published verse that may appeal to the friends of Mr. Purdom. The press, is the publishing front for Mr. Purdom and no one else. Only his books are on the website and only his name is listed as “Poets”.

CafePress is the ‘publisher’ of this chapbook. CafePress is a vanity press. There are on their website 717 books that they have published listed there. Really? Editorial control is exercised rigorous there at CafePress? No, I sincerely doubt it. This is a POD chapbook. I have strong negative feelings toward POD books, have I mentioned this already?

For some reason, Mr. Purdom quoted on the back of his book as well as on his website a non-review from an unidentified (perhaps Mr. Purdom is merciful) reviewer. I will paraphrase it here, “I….am sorry to say….(I) will not be doing a review.” Neither will I.

To Stop the Arms Race, to Prevent Nuclear War….
L. I . Brezhnew
Novosti Press Agency Publishing House
Moscov, USSR

Love these time capsules. This bit of “propaganda” in response to “propaganda” from the United States during the negotiations for the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty that was happening at this time. Agitprop cover art recalling earlier work by Constructionists, who were Russian afterall, although many died believing that art could move the Revolution while their leaders nakedly ruled with iron fists, but I digress….

Well made, as most Novosti produced books were. 54 pages. Staple-bound. To some, quite collectible.

who sees?
Mike Stiler
Self published
Monhegan, Maine

Here’s another self-published book. Interesting combination of words and images. Apparently Mr. Stiler is apparently a visual artist who also write poems. He practices Zen Buddhism which affects his work in this book. Unnumbered pages. Images accompany each poem.