Chapbook Renaissance?

I’ve been skimming through an article titled “Chapbook Renaissance: The Little Book in the Age of Digital and DIY”  in the most recent copy of Poets & Writers.  The article by Kimiko Hahn caught my attention for many reasons.  First, I read a lot of chapbooks and support presses that publish chapbooks.  Second, my own chapbook, Stealing Dust, came out this past February (really, I wasn’t aware that I was part of any “renaissance”).   I liked Hahn’s article for many reasons, but mostly because her words put the chapbook into historical perspective.  But her article did leave me wondering a bit about why people choose to publish chapbooks.  I know for those who are in publish and perish situations, the chapbook often does not “count” for real publication, but I really don’t know the percentage of poets who have publish or perish jobs.   For me, I made the choice for a chapbook (after consulting several friends who had published chapbooks) because I simply felt that my full length manuscript was not ready to be sent out.  And yes, since I keep the rights, I’m hoping that some of the poems will find their way into a full length manuscript some day. 

I know a lot of poets view the chapbook as an important stepping stone towards that first book, and some of my favorite poets have chapbooks.  But what I am also finding interesting is that some poets who have books out are now publishing chapbooks as their second collections, and I am wondering why.  It does seem that there are so many great publishing companies for chapbooks — perhaps that is the reason.  If you are a poet who has (or is about to) publish a chapbook, I would love to know why.

And speaking of chapbooks, Tilt Press has announced its new lineup of 2009-2010 chapbooks.  As someone who is a big fan of both Sarah Sloat’s In the Voice of a Minor Saint and Julie Platt’s In the Kingdom of My Familiar, I am really looking forward to the press’s new books!  Special congrats goes out to Margaret Bashaar whose chapbook, Barefoot and Listening will be published.


  1. Hmm, I wrote an article on that very subject in the new Poet’s Market 2010!

  2. Karen Weyant Said:

    Hi Jeannine,

    I haven’t read the new Poet’s Market yet, but I know your article is the first thing I will look at when I buy my copy. This “boom” in the chapbook publishing world is interesting to me…

  3. David Walsh Said:

    Karen — congrats on becoming a Board member at CLAF! A wonderful organization, a great place. Thanks for serving.

  4. Chapbooks are really hot right now, and some of the best poetry I’ve read in the last couple of years has come from chapbooks. Yours included. 🙂

  5. For a long time, it didn’t occur to me that I might publish a book — I didn’t feel as though I had a sufficient number of poems good enough. Chapbooks weren’t even on my radar. It wasn’t until I began writing my blog that I became aware of them (and began building a small collection thereof), which coincided with my becoming aware that I did actually have a fair amount of good poems, which strung together quite nicely. And I realized that what I had was a chapbook ms. I love chapbooks, the concentrated taste they offer of a poet’s work. I was glad to read Kimiko Hahn’s article for the reasons you mentioned, and also because she’s a great, well-established poet — her attention lends even more credence to the chapbook revolution. Viva! 🙂

  6. kweyant Said:

    Thanks David, I’m looking forward to being on the board.

    And thanks Collin — I wasn’t thinking of my poetry when I was talking about all the great chapbooks out there!

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