The Best Chapbooks of 2013

Welcome to my annual post of the best chapbooks of the year! As always, 2013 was a year of good reading, and I have featured my favorite chapbook collections of the year.  I am hoping this list serves as a reminder that in the poetry world, chapbooks need love too!

beautiful, sinister by Kristy Bowen (Maverick Duck Press) Bowen’s collection of prose poems is a story in verse — through lyrical language intertwined in a gothic atmosphere, we meet three sisters whose lives are tangled in love, lust and tragedy.

Fantasies of Men by William Lusk Coppage (Main Street Rag) Winner of the 2012 Main Street Rag Chapbook Contest, Coppage’s chapbook is a collection of journeys through the Mississippi Delta.  Solemn, yet beautiful, these poems pluck readers from wherever they are and plunk them down on backroads and in rivers, among fish noodlers, bird hunters and boys who flirt with their small town girls all the while dreaming of bigger places.

Improvised Devices by Brandon Courtney (Thrush Press) From the first poem where the narrator watches two little boys play at war, readers are introduced to a collection that explores the vulnerability of humans, whether they are teenagers spinning uncontrollably through their lives in American small towns or soldiers describing their everyday lives through personal accounts of the world around them intertwined with memories of home.

Town Crazy by John Cullen (Slipstream) Winner of Slipstream’s 26th Annual Chapbook Contest, Cullen’s collection which explores is reminiscent of Edgar Lee Master’s Spoon River Anthology, except that Cullen’s characters and landscapes are wilder, crazier, and yes, more endearing.

[Understory] by Karen Dietrich (dancing girl press) Dietrich’s work is always a favorite, and her newest chapbook, which offers glimpses of her childhood in Pennsylvania, explores themes of love and family, and the complicated relationships between the two.

The Everyday Parade/Alone with Turntable, Old Records by Justin Hamm (Crisis Chronicles Press) Formatted and printed to imitate a record with two sides, Hamm’s newest chapbook explores the Midwestern landscape and people through song and lyrical narratives.

Describing the Dark by Joyce Kessel (Saddleroad Press)  Kessel’s chapbook is an homage to Buffalo, New York, but any reader from a Rust Belt city will recognize the tributes to people (both past and present) and the flawed, yet beautiful landscapes that stitch together a city.

 The Gospel of the Bleeding Woman by Katie Manning (Point Loma Press)  In her first chapbook, Manning imagines the life of a minor Biblical character, the bleeding woman who is healed by Jesus. Divided in half, the book details the woman’s life before her cure and then in the second half, moves into more contemporary times, exploring the intersections of faith and spirituality.

Scrap Metal Mantra Poems by Ken Meisel (Main Street Rag) In his newest collection of work, Meisel plays tribute to Rust Belt places and people. With a spiritual reverence, these poems depict narrators who find Jesus in scrapyards, a couple who marries in a junkyard, and a single bird singing a hymn in debris.

We’re Smaller than We Think We Are by Allyson Whipple (Finishing Line Press) From the opening poem, “Fleeing Oklahoma” readers of Whipple’s first chapbook will be on a roadtrip: a journey that does more than take us on the backroads and open highways of America. Instead, this collection explores the search for identity and where we may find it – in old cars, in dusty homes, in our own bodies.


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