May 3, 2005

The persistence of chapbooks . . .


A deep meditation on the state and availability of poetry “chapbooks” appears in the current issue of the American Book Review. The essay (available online as a .pdf), by the former director of New York’s Poets House, Tim Kindseth, defends the importance of chapbooks, while showing how marginalized they have become, even when their authors are well known poets. Says Kindseth, “Sad fact that it may be, unless a work is literally treated as a product to be sold — unless it has been branded with an International Standard Barcode Number — that work will almost never be considered for coverage” in national media or otherwise. Kindseth also profiles some of the country’s most prestigious chapbook publishers, including the Poetry Society of America, which organizes both The National Chapbook Fellowship and The New York Chapbook Fellowship. High among the ranks is the venerable letterpress publisher Ugly Duckling, based in Brooklyn, which specializes in chapbooks. The largest chapbook publisher, in Kindseth’s estimation, is Pudding House, based in Columbus, Ohio, which publishes over 100 chapbooks annually.

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives