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.

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