Chapbooks Resources

**I drafted this post a few weeks ago, and wanted to have more in my spreadsheet before publishing, but CLMP just announced a new chapbook/zine membership which you can read about here and I figured I should just get this posted.**

I’ve been into chapbooks for a long time. Pretty much since I started working in literary publishing as the senior editor for the fascinating Arrowsmith Press, edited by Askold Melnyczuk. There’s a lot to love about them. One of the things I love most about chapbooks is their size – just long enough to seriously engage with, but short enough to read in one sitting. The brevity of the form leads to books that cohere in a more satisfying way to me than many full-length collections do. Especially in poetry, but I think also in cross-genre, short-fiction and the literary essay. I think of a chapbook like a really great album (ok, now I sound old, but I worked in a music store for a while, and yeah, it was sort of like Empire Records). A great chapbook, like a great album that has an arc to it, a movement, thoughtfulness, even perhaps an argument (implicit or explicit). Where a lot of full-length collections are more like a best-of, or a comprehensive catalog, a chapbook can establish an internal poetics and logic that is often impossible for longer works.

Another thing I love about the chapbook is the ephemeral quality of it, as a physical object. A lot of chapbooks are small, handmade objects that are out of place in bookstores. I can only think of a handful of bookstores that even consider carrying chapbooks, and even then they are sort of hard to spot, as spineless as they often are. Of course, that’s usually enough to intrigue me when I’m browsing, but I imagine they get overlooked more often than not. They’re often made in extremely limited editions, numbering in the hundreds or less. Since most literary title distributors won’t carry chapbook-only presses, they’re awfully hard to find, at least comprehensively. All this lends a kind of mystique to the form, and a certain pleasurable sense of illicitness. This isn’t the hipster urge toward the underground as a kind of cultural cache, this is a kind of quiet art that moves in undercurrents, hand-to-hand often.

Thanks to presses like Ugly Duckling, the format is not quite as ignored as it once was. There are now a handful of review outlets that occasionally review chapbooks (usually from the ‘larger’ presses that just happen to run chapbook series). And more and more presses popping up that are publishing them.

Which leads me to this post. I’ve been compiling a list of chapbook presses (in a public, open-to-comment Google spreadsheet), in part to submit my own work to, and in part because I think it would be a good resource to have and I haven’t found an up-to-date and comprehensive list of them anywhere else. I’ve been pulling from the Poetry Society of America, Poets & Writers, CRWROPPS (the creative writing opportunity yahoo listserv), CLMP, and Duotrope. But I’d love it if people in the know about chapbooks contributed and sent me ones I may have missed. This is step one in what I hope will be an ongoing project to create a resource for accessing this diffuse publishing community.



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