Chapbooking

I already have three different chapbooks “in circulation,” which is a fancy way of saying that I’ve submitted them to several publishers/ contests and am waiting to hear good news.  Ok, let’s be real:  ANY news.  Two have not won the contests they were submitted for, but I continue to send them out.  Still, this is getting expensive.  I think I’ve already spent over $200 sending these chapbooks out.

When I hear about other people on the contest bandwagon, I know they’ve often spent way more than I have, but they persist because publishers have pretty much moved to the contest model of publication.  To some extent, I can understand this.  Poetry, after all, is not a money-maker, and publishers know they won’t recoup their investment, so they shift some of the financial burden on the poets who are desperate to get published.  Hence the proliferation of first book contests, as well as the myriad chapbook contests whose announcements fill up writing listservs.  

There are some presses, such as the sublime Tupelo Press, whose publications are beautiful and glorious collections I love to read. Tupelo Press has open poetry reading period during July, and, because of the economy, has reduced the reading fee from $35 to $25, which, considering that small presses desperately need money, is quite an act of generosity. 

As an aside, let me mention, if you’re looking for a fantastic book of poetry from Tupelo Press to read, for the love of Goddess, buy Kristin Bock’s Cloisters, which is so good you’ll cry.  I’ve already read it twice, and I got it like 2 weeks ago.  It will be the best $16.95 you’ve ever spent.

Anyway, I haven’t submitted a book to Tupelo Press, but that’s because I don’t have a book-length collection.  Oh, I have plenty of poems, enough to fill 60-80 pages worth, but my problem is, they don’t fit together.  They’re all disjointed.  So that’s why I’ve been working on chapbooks.

And all of this is by way of saying I’ve decided to put another chapbook together to send out, and am currently choosing among the rest of my poems to find ones that might (emphasis on might) resonate with each other.  It’s hard because the poems that are left over from the first three chapbooks I’ve put together have been excluded because they just don’t fit.

So I was thinking if I put 20-24 pages of poems together that don’t fit individually in the other chapbooks, maybe they will fit together by the very nature of them not fitting.  (Got that?)  In other words, maybe because they are disparate, I can create a collection that works because it doesn’t have an obvious theme.  I don’t know about that.  

Maybe, too, I can write a few poems to help them gel a bit more as a collection–so if the theme is “difference,” maybe writing a few poems where that theme is expressed can help bridge the differentness of the other poems.  There’s a chance this idea might fall flat.  But I have some time, because the contest I plan to submit the manuscript to has an October deadline.

You might say, why not put all of these chapbooks together and slap a numbered section on each one, and voila, a book-length collection?  Don’t think I haven’t had that thought already.  But that won’t work either.  There’s no common thread among the three different collections other than that I wrote them.  And I’ve read enough poetry books that I can feel when the poems are organically organized, and when they’re clearly not.  Putting my chapbooks together would feel like… someone slapped three chapbooks together.

Anyway, beginning to organize this fourth chapbook is my goal for this weekend.  As is thoroughly cleaning the kitchen.  Hurrah.

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