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.

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