“What they say is / change / can bring you here.” (“Beyond the Dream Hatch”)
Fellow poet, friend, and blogger, Gwynn Scheltema, has recently written a piece about chapbooks — what they are and why we might consider publishing one. Here’s a short excerpt from Gwynn’s Writescape blog (with permission; thank you Gwynn):
Why publish a chapbook?
For the unpublished poet, it’s a chance to get publishing creds.
The process will prepare you for putting together a full collection.
A chapbook is a “safe” way to publish, because the work is not lost. You can publish it again in your collection.
You can take risks with a chapbook – give a chance to a new publisher, publish it yourself, create an artpiece.
A chapbook can keep you in the public eye in the time between publishing full poetry collections.
You need a home for perfectly good orphan poems that didn’t make it into a collection.
This started me thinking about chapbooks slipped between full collections on my poetry shelves and to Red Alders in an Island Dream.
RED ALDERS IN AN ISLAND DREAM
… is an example of a 7-inch square, hand-stitched chapbook by Christopher Howell (Trask House Books, Portland, 1980). It was given to me recently by a friend who gifted it from his library. Howell has now published 11 books of poetry and won three Pushcart prizes among other awards.
This little treasure has been read many times. Just because it is small — home to only seven poems (one is in four parts, which sort of makes it eleven poems) — does not decrease its value. Actually, I like Red Alders in an Island Dream better than many full collections on my shelves. Don’t approach chapbooks in a condescending way. Sometimes the best things come in small packages.
The collection ends with the four-part poem “In Grey Water: The Day,” and these are the last four lines of “IV,” the final lines in Red Alders in an Island Dream:
Membranous and steady, like wind moving in the darkening neighborhoods, we seek the far shore. And window light breaks from us like the sound of oars.
Thank you, Sarah Law, for accepting my “Haibun: Of Hunger & Fire” for publication in Amethyst Review.
HAIBUN: OF HUNGER & FIRE
A chorus of chick-a-dee-dee-dee greets late winter dawn and spring-hungry us, who clutch mugs of hot coffee against the chill. A flock of chickadees cluster in the barberry bush now doused with snow, their black caps barely visible within the weave of pencil-thin branches. But their bobbing dark heads give them away among last summer’s shrivelled red berries and a few clinging leaves. In groups of five or six, they wing to the feeder and back again, a circus lilting through air, sunflower seeds clasped in their toes. Blue jays, nesting in the evergreens across the way, also wake hungry. They screech a slurring jaay, jaay – whether to intimidate or pre-emptive to mob – I don’t know. The tiny chickadees keep a distance from the raucous bully-blues. You stoke the fire; sparks rise; woodsmoke scents the air.
A “haibun” is a Japanese literary term that we can trace back to the poet Matsuo Basho (17th century). Essentially, it is a paragraph-long prose narrative followed by a 17-syllable “haiku.” Haibuns tend to focus on landscape scenes and anecdotes. Style-wise, a haibun is imagistic and captures a moment in time.
I hope that you enjoy this one and that you will leave a comment and share.