Monday, March 25, 2013

Pro Femina by Carolyn Kizer (2000)

Pro Femina
Carolyn Kizer
BkMk Press/University of Missouri Press

I have seen many copies of this chapbook around and while not really enjoying the cover, I have thought it important enough to mention here. Probably not surprisingly there are no review of this chapbook on Amazon; after all, who reviews chapbooks?

This one has a bit of history to it that ought to be brought out. There are 5 parts to this piece and they had not been published together in 35 years. This 30 page chapbook represents a period of time when Feminism was emerging in the US and women were still feeling their way. Kizer wrote part of this piece as an homage to Fanny Stevenson, the wife of Robert Louis Stevenson, and noting the years she spent in his shadow; caring for him, etc.

There is a depth in these 30 pages that belie the thinness of the work. It is merely thin in number, not in substance. It's worth a careful reading.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Story of the Campaign and Siege of Yorktown (1931)

The Story of the Campaign and Siege of Yorktown
H. J. Eckenrode
Presented by Mr. Swanson on Feb. 17, 1931
71st Congress, 3rd Session
United States Government Printing Office
Washington, DC

54 page historical document with illustrations. Wonderful copy of a document entered into the Senate (Senate document 318) in 1931. Great slice of American history.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

down spooky by shanna compton (2003)

down spooky
Shanna Compton
self published

Shanna Compton has become a known commodity. This brief chapbook isn't. If one ventures over to Ms. Compton's website there is no mention of it. There is a good deal written about the full-length version of a collection of poetry with the same name as this, Down Spooky, which was published by Bloof Books in 2005 but this is an earlier (and I assume more rare) version. The cover is unique to the chapbook.

The chapbook is 16 pages. It begins with an empty crossword puzzle and ends with a now full crossword puzzle. There's a concept to this chapbook that was mothballed by Bloof once a full collection was forthcoming. I find it curious when the original version of a work is "reinvented" by a larger publisher, sometimes despite the effort and thought-process that went into the earlier version.

In some respects a chapbook is a more pure form for a concept piece than a full length book. The making a book of 70-some pages is like making sausage. It's a grind. The end product doesn't represent the sum of the individual poems but the thickness of its spine. Unless poems are arranged in the original order as they appeared in the chapbook, the uniqueness of the chapbook is lost. Completely.

To most people, and to most poets themselves unless they also published their chapbook "in-house" this all might be academic but as a publisher who has seen entire chapbooks swallowed whole into larger books with none of the images or uniqueness that went into the chapbook, it's awfully depressing to see one's ideas flushed for "uniformity" as defined by the Big Fish Press which has published the whole Big Book of poet (whomever)

The Big Book is the brass ring, I understand that. At the same time, what makes a chapbook special is what large books don't attempt to do. Whether that is alternating colored pages, or covers, or illustrations which will never be attempted to be recreated, or any number of other "bells and whistles" and have them in hand so much quicker than books with spines. In some respects, I find big books to be BORING visually because it's "costly" to be otherwise. Okay, then boring it is!

This chapbook is not boring. This chapbook is a priceless example of the little sliver of nothing that compels me onward to seeking out chapbooks wherever I can.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Words & Food by Robie Liscomb (1981)

Words & Food
Robie Liscomb
Fathom Press
Chicago, IL

There was some kind of magic happening with Michael Tarachow and his associates, as in this case with Robie Liscomb. I have had to the good fortune to be able to communicate with Michael and through him understood the near-gyspy manner of his Press (they had many homes). One thing that travel did not diminish was the quality of the books that were made. Liscomb himself was a publisher, Fathom Press, at the time. Both men are happily still alive and have multiple copies of their (and their presses') books.

Words & Food is a beautifully made chapbook done on hand-made paper in an edition of 200 copies. Without offending anyone involved, there is great craftsmanship involved in the production of this book. For those in the biz, and collectors in general, all I can say is that it feels like something. You can feel the cover, the pages. Nothing slick. Nothing plastic. It feels, and reads, very REAL.

Google these guys, they are worth getting in touch with. I know that Michael was selling off some of his inventory. Maybe you can still get some of the wonderful Fathom Press chapbooks. Completely worth the effort. (blogger made correction on 5/6/16)

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Hotel Wentley Poems by John Wieners (2006)

The Hotel Wentley Poems
John Wieners
Joy Street Press
Boston, MA

This is a recreation of the 1965 publication of The Hotel Wentley Poems that was published by Dave Haselwood. I have read a critique of this particular reproduction as somehow misleading or left wanting since the complaining person thought that any reproduction should offer something new, different, or some such thing. I am glad that additional copies have been created for general readers. Isn't that what it's supposed to be about? Getting books into the hands of readers?

The front cover photo was by Wallace Berman with details by Robert LaVigne. Unpaginated. Staple-bound.