ModWriters EsmÃ©, Laura Beth, and Angela reading poetry chapbooks from Dancing Girl Press.
As a word-loving lady, I long to spend hours reading while curled in my favorite chair or lounging in a bubble bath. The reality is that my jam-packed schedule makes it hard to find time to unwind and enjoy a good book. If your calendar also makes it tough to squeeze in a chapter of prose, try turning the pages of a poetry chapbook!
What is a chapbook, exactly? Chapbooks are small booklets consisting of 10-40 folded saddle-stitched pages. Dating as far back as the 17th century, chapbooks were popularized by traveling merchants, or “chap-men,” hawking their inexpensive, handmade text collections on topics ranging from political manifestos to song lyrics.
Nowadays, indie lit presses produce chapbooks of all genres, but poetry remains the reader favorite, in part because the modest size easily embodies poems on one theme or subject. Lightweight, and just as portable as an e-book reader, poetry chaps make it easy to squeeze in a few stanzas while you ride the bus or stand in line for a latte.
An assortment of chapbooks from Birds of Lace, Blood Pudding, and Dancing Girl Press.
Many indie presses publish handmade books boasting pretty paper and embellishments such as ribbons, lace, stitching, and fabric. Handcrafted flourishes make chaps fun to hold and add a delightfully tactile dimension to your poetry reading experience. Gina Abelkop, editor of the Bay Area feminist press Birds of Lace, incorporates materials that work hand in hand with the poems themselves. “[I want] to make the outsides match the insides, like designing an outfit for the text,” says Gina.
Not sure where to begin? Might I recommend a few of my favorite presses, including the aforementioned Birds of Lace? Chicago-based Dancing Girl Press promotes the work of female poets with a wide selection of limited-edition, handcrafted chaps. If you’re a horror fan, browse the macabre selection of eerie chapbooks from Ohio-born Blood Pudding Press. And if you’re already a chapbook fanatic, share your favorite poets and presses in the comments!
– By freelance fashion writer Laura Beth Davis