“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For the unpublished poet, it’s a chance to get publishing creds.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.
Notice her concentration /
how she stands on stilty legs /
Thank you, Sarah Law, editor of Amethyst Review, for selecting Honey Light for publication (August 8, 2020).
When you wake in honey light
linger where river meets the curve
of a bay round as a waxing moon
where the pearl-feathered heron
glides with outstretched wings
alights in weedy shallows
to become just another shadowed reed
perfectly still in solitude.
Notice her concentration
how she stands on stilty legs
in harmony with time and place
like the pause between piano notes
the space that makes the music
…..the downward pause of Billie Holiday
…..Cohen’s gap that lets the light come in
stands alert and dreamy at water’s edge.
Do not rush through the honey light
but flow in the effortless action
and inaction of night becoming day
of the moon’s light giving way to the sun
and the sun’s rising and sinking
into the ebb and flow of the sea
step into the shallows
stand in wu wei.….a heron-woman.
Please “like,” share and send your thoughts on the poem. Thanks.
Those of us abroad when Covid-19’s impact hit were about to have our travelling lives interrupted. It was to have been a writing trip, a month in a place that I love. Baracoa is a small city near the northeastern tip of Cuba, facing the Atlantic Ocean with mountains to her back. Geography makes it rather isolated and beautiful. I would visit friends, but mostly I would walk the long malecón and then the much longer curve of beach, and I would write. But then the news broke that airlines were cancelling flights, boarders were closing: paradise interrupted.
THE DOVES SEEM TO CROON TIPPY CANOE TIPPY CANOE Baracoa and Boca de la Miel, Cuba
Rain falls overnight
cleansing heat and dust of day
susurrus song on the pillow.
Travelling news greets morning
airlines suspending flights
a case of coronavirus at home
factories and daycares closed
the mantra of self-isolation repeated
while the sun rises above Baracoa
of ocean waves and mountain breezes.
You feel a bit like Robinson Crusoe.
Woodcut visions of medieval plague
bodies stacked and dangling from carts
emaciated people leaning from balconies
cross your mind before you quickly wipe
Walk miles of ocean shore
to lounge upon a sheltered beach.
Eat uva caleta grapelike berries
from the tree of Columbus’ cross.
Crack almond shells with a stone.
At the small fishing village of Boca de la Miel
listen to riffs of Spanish voices
drift across Made’s verandah
devour fried platano sip ice-cold cerveza walk home to your casa on Calle Maceo
close to the malecón.
From your small balcony roof-top high
you listen to doves cooing in their dovecot tippy canoe tippy canoe a rooster crowing.
if you’ve slipped into Alice’s rabbit hole.
Night’s rain has emptied clouds.
The sullen sky has changed to blue.
Time flattens like a Dali watch.
The doves sing their haunting song.
When this pandemic passes and we travel again, if Cuba is on your list of places to visit, think about contacting my friend Alber the Hiker who is a wonderful guide who will share his knowledge of Cuba from its history to its unique flora and fauna. He knows his island home from west to east, north to south. He’s a great guy.
Writing Tip: If you haven’t yet joined a writing group, think about doing it. They bring creative people together for sharing, inspiration, encouragement, and often, like SOTH, offer publishing opportunities.
Thank you, Carole Baldock, for including “City of Tulum” in Orbis: International Literary Journal, #191, Spring 2020.
My visit to the Maya ruins of Tulum came about as a wonderful bit of travel serendipity during a sailing sojourn to Isla Mujeras. My friend and I took a ferry from the island to the mainland and rented a car to drive down the Maya peninsula to the archeological site. Rain pelted and the streets flooded as we crossed Cancun and made our way southward. Harrowing — as Tulum once was for sailors approaching from the sea.
Tulum is unique among Maya sites: it is the only one of the ruins on the water. That day, after the rain softened to mist, we ventured along winding paths past stepped-structures reaching into the sky. We could hear waves breaking before we came to the precipice overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. The poem describes one of the historic edifices, as well as the use the people made of the treacherous shallows. I hope that you enjoy reading “City of Tulum.”
City of Tulum
A veil of constant rain cloaked Tulum
perched high on a cliff above this ancient Mayan port
where ships with hulls of treasures were guided into shallows onto reefs
where once Mayan priests
ritualistic keepers and writers of knowledge astrology and cultic rites
climbed wearing long robes their heads drooping plumage
climbed close to their gods in the sky
where a still beating heart pulled from a chest fed the gods’ hunger
where shadows cast ominous stains on an altar.
I search the ruins of Tulum
for what lingers ghostlike in the mist.
At the precipice above fishermen casting nets from small boats
my feet cling to the edge high above the sea.