Wednesday, December 24, 2014

rushing to the end of the year

There is life after blogging too. Or perhaps, instead of blogging. Instead of capturing every second of one's life on some electronic devise or another. Not standing on every platform available. Not screaming in every direction at once.

I meant to write more about chapbooks this year but was overwhelmed BY the year. Too much happened, and blogging fell off the radar screen. Keep collecting, I did a good amount but writing about the treasures I did not do in the measure I meant to do.

I see them like snowflakes falling on ebay, some big fishnet in Minnesota pulling up entire schools of chapbooks posted there. Then put up individually with some odd priced numbers. I see these illuminated little fish from the deep forgotten unknown flashing across my momentary awareness; names and titles I never heard of. Like old signs along route 66 in the desert night. Surrounded by the hollow darkness of obscurity. Never remembered. Pages never opened. Poems never read.

And unlike the masked poster from Minnesota whose only in it for the quick buck, I try to uncurl the twisted logic of best intentions and the scrubbing away of time. Chapbooks, authors, presses. Swept clean from our morning brains like forgotten dreams.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Message to Garcia by Elbert Hubbard (1917)

A Message to Garcia
Elbert Hubbard
The Roycrofters
East Aurora Erie County New York

Hubbard was a member of the Roycrofter artisan community in New York state and died on the Lusitania (May 7, 1915). He lived in an Arts & Crafts community and two years after his death, this lovely handmade chapbook was created to honor Hubbard. It's a wonderful example of the Arts & Crafts movement in the US during this period. Handmade paperback, hand sewn binding. Very fine indeed. A bookworm also enjoyed it sometime in the past and I am now keeping it for the relic that it is since some of the text was literally devoured years ago.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

My Lost Idols by Jackie Botterio (1967)

My Lost Idols
Jackie Botterio
twowindows press
san francisco, ca
(c) 1967

I was going to write about this chapbook in terms that I have before: size, page count, details and all that. But with this one I got caught up in that printed in November 1967 in an edition of only 130 copies and that the copies were only distributed to friends. Why? Well, the clue is found on the title page at the bottom:

Jackie Botterio

The young lady, all of 24 years old, died. This is her only book. Her remembrance. The fact that there are 5-10 copies posted online to be sold is heartbreaking. This young woman, this small press, deserves more than the briefest mention. I did a quick search of this blog and found a different chapbook by Twowindows Press : a 1987 chapbook by Joanne Kyger and Michael Rothenberg. By that time, the press was located in Berkeley. Apparently the press brought out close to 50 books over its lifespan. Not done digging but wanted to put this up.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Jamaica by Travis Cebula (2011)

Travis Cebula
pamphlet poets series no. 4
bedouin books

It's summer. Some folks like to think about going to the islands. Like Jamaica. It's the right time for it, you know? This tiny format chapbook is the perfect size for a quick read on a hot beach. The poetry captures a snapshot of a moment of a memory of an island few of us will ever reach. Very cool.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Vodka and Roses by Michael Irene Welch (1978)

Vodka and Roses
Michael Irene Welch
Toothpaste Press
West Branch,Iowa

Uniquely sized chapbook. Pink cover. Linoleum block images by Cinda Kornblum. Staple-bound. The more I collect Toothpaste Press books, the more interesting it becomes to see the evolution of the Press over time. From thin well crafted chapbooks toward books with a spine. Of course, one could conclude, this Press would evolve into something else - and it did - Coffee House Press!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Shaved Code by Frances Richard (2008)

Shaved Code
Frances Richard
Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs
Brooklyn, NY

#53 of 130 printed. Unpaginated. Poems as collage as cover. Fragmented. Great chapbook. Simply said.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Above Us Only Sky : Atheist Poetry (2003)

Above Us Only Sky: Atheist Poetry
edited by Michelle Rhea and Anita Barnard
Incarnate Muse
Sanata Barbara, CA

100 page anthology, which is a staple-bound chapbook, is like a ducked billed platypus (what kind of odd bird is this?) A chapbook that is 100 pages is not a chapbook. All the same, the poetry is mixed. Some familiar names. Some decent poems.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Ship of Bells by George Hitchcock (date uncertain)

A Ship of Bells
George Hitchcock
San Francisco, CA
date uncertain

I just got a huge lot of books and among the items is "a ship of bells" by George Hitchcock who also ran Kayak - his own imprint. There are woodcut prints by Mel Fowler throughout. The 61 page staple-bound chapbook does straddle the line as far as I am concerned regarding size but that's his decision as Publisher/Poet. Since is wearing both hats, more power to him. It was his first book. The is some guessing as to when this was published, the best guess seems to be 1969 but there is no date in the book itself and Google searches have been inconclusive. However, the book is beautiful. It's an incredible chapbook. The artwork by Mel Fowler is exceptional. Wow.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sextuples Are Not Heavy by Danielle Roderick (2010)

Sextuples Are Not Heavy
DoubleCross Press
Single Sheet Series No. 4
Brooklyn, NY

3.5" X 4" tiny chapbook accordion-style printed Feb. 2010 at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. Linocuts by Jeff Peterson. Overbeaten flaxabaca paper made at Lost Arch Papermill, Tuscaloosa, AL. Doublecross does some interesting work. I have noted them before when I wrote about Brandon Shimoda's little chap, The Grave on the Wall. This one is just as well done and handsome.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Obit for the Warehouse by Jaime Niedermeier (2006)

Obit for the Warehouse
Jamie Niedermeier
Duplex Press

I found this little nugget via ebay. It has led to an interesting bit of detective-ing in the sense that Ms. Niedermeier is present on the Net in various places. This thin booklet is her only book to date. I saw a short film she posted in 2012 of her in a temporary homeless situation - hopefully that's all changed now. She's living on-line. A lot of people do that. Not that she is doing it intentionally but that she is sharing her life on-line, likely as a way to promote herself as an artist. The film was pretty interesting, I have to say.

This is a single poem booklet. The poem is filled with interesting language. I appreciate it. I like it. The visual presentation is shit though. Separation of the visual from the linguistic is obvious. I can see this poem in a larger book should she get to that stage. However, text is not her primary medium. All the same, I like the poem. And wherever you are, Jaime, I hope you have landed on your feet!

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Off Flaw by Dawn Pendergast (2009)

Off Flaw
Dawn Pendergast

tiny tiny tiny "chapbook" measuring in at 3.5" X 3". Braille-like cover. Experimental work and experimental design. This is her first chapbook. Sparse text for the small space. Interesting work. I have read an interesting review of this tiny tiny. Ms. Pendergast seems to be most present on (personal preference?) I have riffed a poem from one of her lines, I will admit. Collectable!

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

it bears repeating....

It bears repeating: I am not a cheerleader. I am a publisher as well as a poet. I write this blog to acknowledge the work of publishers and poets and "one-time" presses that bubble to the surface through the existence of the work. If someone thinks I should only focus on the poems, they miss my point. Or rather, they are not aware of the quote by El Lissitsky that is a guiding principle of mine:

The book must be the unified work of the author and the designer. As long as this is not the case, splendid exteriors will constantly be produced for unimportant contents, and visa-versa.
El Lissitzky
from Do Not Separate Form from Content!(1931)

If a chapbook visually sucks but the words are good, I will say so. If the chapbook is stunning but the words are god-awful, I will also say so. No tree should ever be felled for tripe or self-serving navel-worshipping. If you have a friend whose work you like a lot and it doesn't matter to you what their chapbook looks like: that fine, but that's not my "job". I respect the people who have taken the time and considerable effort to make a thing of beauty. Putting out a book on the cheapest photo-copy paper available with the grainiest picture imaginable and touting it as your "work of art", I will decline climbing on your bandwagon.

Certain publishers from the past, say from the late 1970s through today, deserve to be recognized as establishing the structure by which "the bar" is placed, let alone raised. The truth is that they publishers cared what their chapbooks LOOKED LIKE as much as the words or images, or both, were INSIDE. I have listed some of these presses before but it is worth mentioning again: Toothpaste Press (Allan Kornblum), Perishable Press Limited (Walter Hamady), The Fathom Press (Robie Liscomb), The Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs (Brenda Iljima), Pentagram Press (Michael Tarachow), and many others.

I would urge lovers of the chapbook form to image that there is a history to this all, that you are part of it, and that you haven't created the wheel. It's been done. Dozens of times over. Hundreds of times over and then some. There is a historical element to my blog that I perhaps haven't overtly presented but I think it's time that I did. We are all part of something that dates back to the 1940s. If you wish to consider the chap(ter) books that were published in England earlier, then we are talking about the 1600s.

My particular focus is poetry chapbooks of the second half of the 20th century and now into the 21st.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Cadastral Map by Jill Magi (2005)

Cadastral Map
Jill Magi
The Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs
Brooklyn, NY

When a shorter work, say this one, evolves into a larger one, like the 2011 full sized book by the same title published in Great Britain by Shearsman Books, something in the immediacy of the chapbook form is lost. But the quality of the work certainly remains.

What attracted me to this piece was the language and the space between. And the explanation. I liked the explanation in the chapbook. The explanation has e-or-devolved into an essay at the end of the full book. The text was part of a larger manuscript that had a different working title back in 2004-2005 but with the publication of the chapbook and the response to that chapbook, the title slid into line with this chapbook. It's a great piece, it's a beautiful chapbook.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Second Story of Your Body by Angela Hume (2011)

Second Story of Your Body
Angela Hume
The Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs
Brooklyn, NY

This is yet another of the handsome chapbooks published by Yo-Yo Labs under the direction of Brenda Iljima. Angela Hume is the author of 2 books of poetry, this being the first. It was well received upon its publication.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Strap/Halo by Jamie Townsend (2011)

Jamie Townsend
The Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs
Brooklyn, NY

Unpaginated staple-bound chapbook beautifully put together by Brenda Iljima. Challenging poetry worth the find.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Heroes and Monsters by Kate Schapira (2009)

Heroes and Monsters
Kate Schapira
The Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs
Brooklyn, NY

Unlike most entries in this blog about chapbooks, this one comes with a backstory. In 2010 AWP met in Washington, D.C. which is my town these days. I attended as Plan B Press and sat in the huge rooms with publishers, poets, organizations and writing programs from across the country. At one table sat one woman with a few "tiny-tinies". I was intrigued by the smallness of the chapbooks and their production. Only later did I read through it, a tiny Kate Schapira chap called Magpie's Box If it could even properly be called a chap. It was definitely tiny though. And I had become a fan!

Kate Schapira is a lecturer at Brown and the author of three collections of poetry as well as a number of chapbooks. Her name is so familiar now that when I see it, even in a photograph of an ebay book lot being offered from someone in Georgia, it's enough to make me close the deal. I got 10 chapbooks from The Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs and am taking the other 9 chapbooks as a learning curve.

This is a prose poetry collection with cover art by Brenda Iljima. 32 pages. The work is very good. It's a beautiful chapbook. It's a pleasure to read.

Brenda Iljima and the Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs

Brenda Iljima and Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs will be the subject of the next handful of entries. A bit of a tease here though - back in 2011, in December 2011, I got a lot of material from someone via ebay. I admit I scored big, it was a big lot of things including 4 chapbooks by someone named Brenda Iljima.

I was intrigued. New person - new voice - four distinctively different chapbooks from 4 different presses. The seller was Boston-based so were most of the items that I received. So, Brenda had been in Boston for a period of time. Then she moved to Brooklyn where she runs Portable Press of Yo-Yo Labs. That's where the latest thread of this woven tale comes in. Earlier this year, a person in rural Georgia posted a number of small press items - including a lot of 10 chapbooks from Portable Press of Yo-Yo Labs. I recognized one of the names, Kate Schapira, so I bid and won the lot. Now I had tons more to write about! Have as well as had.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Time Out of Kilter by Jerry Selman (1978)

Time Out of Kilter
Jerry Selman
Self Published

54 page self-published chapbook. Not thrilled with the work. Some times because you can doesn't mean you should. SAVE A TREE!!!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Ann Scales Postcards (1976)

The Ann Scales Postcards
Joseph Gabe/Mary Jean Kenton/Ann Chapman Scales
Printed Matters Inc.
New York, NY

I have seen more recent versions of a postcard themed/sized book but this is the earliest one I can recall. It's an odd duck. It's dimensions are that of a large postcard and the text is in hand-scroll of the "author" yet the text is a combination of lines by well known authors and some of Ms. Scales's own. Ok, so what is the point? Why was this book produced? It lacks any images that propel or enhance the reading experience. The text is peppered with quotes by John Cage, Robert Creeley, et al. Fine and dandy but, what IS the point of this book? I don't know. It's journal writing. It's nice that someone would publish it - however, it's not my cup of tea.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Spider Byte by Victor Perrotti (2014)

Spider Byte
Victor Perrotti
Weblines Design
Virginia Beach, VA

This tiny chapbook shows promise. The author is also the publisher and he handles his jobs well. Perhaps we will see more of this imprint in the future.

Monday, March 10, 2014

something else the music way by Eric Baus (2004)

something else the music was
Eric Baus
braincase Press
Northampton, MA

This is one of most handsome chapbooks I have to date seen. As it happens, braincase Press is the brainchild of the very talented poet Noah Eli Gordon. The Press began in 2003 outside of Boston but now can be found in Denver. One of the features of the chapbooks that I am most drawn to is that each one has a wrap-around cover. They are all very well made and quite stunning to look at. Can I get an AMEN?

The author is also publisher of Minus House Chapbooks. The work here is very good. It's complete package. Well worth the search.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

hi, once again : my address, in case you want to send me some chapbooks

my address is:

Steven Allen May
2714 Jefferson Dr.
Alexandria, VA 22303

hi folks, sorry about that!

It's March and I have only written 3 entries for the year. I am remiss. Sorry. Yesterday at the local library I hold a second chapbook exchange to an empty room and while I should know better, I have left things to autopilot and autopilot doesn't do well (actually, it doesn't do anything at all) SO, I apologize. I will get back on the schtick and do better for the rest of the year. I promise.

So. Yeah, I held a chapbook exchange and exhibition in our local library which was a big mistake - not because chapbooks are non-literary but maybe because the local library patrons are. I have chapbooks from England, India, and now Spain on display but the only ones seeing them are my wife and kids (and they have seen them already, groaningly)

A local library in the boonies only works if a number of publishers live in the area and want to hob-nob. All the publishers I invited live in the city, and don't usually travel to the boonies for such - yawn - affairs. It would be like having a book fair in an area with a population in the dozens and have expectations. I had no expectations. If I had had expectations, I might have heaved the mighty boulder up the mountain with greater glee but as it was, I left things to chance but Chance is the cousin of Autopilot, and you know how that works.

As it is, I have a lump of chapbooks from Yo-Yo Labs to review as well as one which arrived yesterday from Blue Bathtub Books in Spain. Plus others I have been sitting on. I will stand up now and move them off my seat. Till Soon stevenallenmay

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Grave on the Wall by Brandon Shimoda (2010)

The Grave on the Wall
Brandon Shimoda
Double Cross Press
Tiny chapbook published in 2010 by Double Cross Press. Single Sheet Series #5. Letterpressed at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts during March and April of 2010. Hand-sewn stitching. Unpaginated. Purple waxy hand-made paper cover stock. Unique item made shortly before the poet "blew up" with two major collections in the following two years. Definite collector's item. Illustrated throughout by the author.

There is/was a Press and the Press does/did have a blog but its restricted. Intriguing.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Meditation on a Hyacinth (and other quiet things) by Victoria Hamilton (1977)

Meditation on a Hyacinth (and other quiet things)
Victoria Hamilton
Blue Heron Press
Grand Rapids, MI

I found this very thin slice of nothing at a local bookstore, the thin slice of red gave it away. It reminds me of early Blue Mountain book in the stylings of Susan Polis Schutz. Hand lettered "pieces". Not sure I would came the pieces poetry. Interestingly, while researching this tiny chapbook I found out that Howard Fast had an imprint in New York City from 1952-1956 to publish several editions of his book Spartacus and most other writings of his. Didn't find much out about the Grand Rapids imprint though.

winter's been cold

so cold my fingers don't work so cold