Saturday, May 21, 2005

Read this..

What the hell??  apparently chapbooks are not "serious works of art" because:

a) they are not sold in bookstores (umm..most poetry books hardly are anyway, check out the selection at your local Chicago bookstore, with the exception of maybe Myopic, and don't even bother with the chain stores..)

b) no one is teaching them in classes (if anyone ever teaches my poems in a class somebody shoot me...again a certain academic bias I keep encountering.)

c) people buy them at readings  (yes, that SO makes them not art)

Maybe I'm misunderstanding her point (I like Catherine Daly's work alot and just ordered her new she's been in Wicked Alice), but I have to wholly disagree here..

Yes, while "vanity" or "learning exersize" may apply in some cases, on the whole, I think alot of people look at chapbooks as an entity, a body of work in and of itself.  I mean, they can be alot of things:  something commemoratively issued for an reading or event,  or something a poet can just sell at readings allowing the audience to take something more tangible home with them.   Since lately I've been writing series of poems, specifically for chapbook manuscripts, I'm a bit at arms with the notion that these are dismissed as not "serious works of art," and for such ridiculous reasons.  I would hardly term dgp's chaps as not being art in and of themselves.  They're cohesive manuscripts that have a beginning a middle and an end. A number of "book" presses also publish chapbooks for shorter manuscripts and for less cost.  For most publishers, like dgp, it's our only option.  So apparently  because they're cheaper to produce and  a mere 20 or so pages and a perfect-binding away from a "book" they're not "serious art".  Because no one is requiring some class of indifferent poetry undergrad or grad students to buy it's not "serious art."   

In my opinion get your work out to your audience in whatever way you need to do it, be it a chapbook, a book, cave paintings, cd's, artists books, sidewalk chalking.  Yes these things are ephemeral, but isn't everything?  If your work is crafted, thought-provoking, and beautiful, it's art, even if it's handed out on acid yellow mimeographs.   Sales and money, while nice, have nothing to do with art.

(I realize I probably am being hypocritical here since, as you know, I badly want a book, but it's more than that.  Yes, I want a book, because I have a book fetish, glossy, shiny covers and some heft make me happy.  But I also want chapbooks, and broadsides, and pamphlets,, or bookmarks, anything else printed.  Also webzines and e-chapbooks.  Yes, I'd like to see my work in a bookstore(not just Quimbys), but I'm not going to gage the worth of my poetry on the fact that it's not.)

Even poets who have books sometimes do chapbooks as other collections.  Louise Gluck has one called October out from Sarabande.  Arielle Greenberg's Fa(r)ther Down:  Songs from the Allergy Trials is its own little world.  A poet who read at Columbia recently, Robin Worth, had a lovely ekphrastic chapbook I believe was commisioned and issued by an art gallery or museum.  Don't tell me these aren't works of art in and of themselves, just as whole and complete as any of their books.
As an antidote..go read here


Anonymous Poet said...

Have you seen Apparently, it provides inexpensive self-publishing. Apparently, now everyone CAN be published. Does that take away the cache in doing so?

kristy bowen said...

Perhaps, but then maybe that's exactly what should happen. Then it becomes not about the method of distributing the work, ie. who's self publishing, chabooks vs. longer works, who's fortunate enough to get a book deal, or who you know, but (gasp) the work itself and getting it out to whatever sort of interested audience you have....certainly vanity plays a role, but if you self-publish a book of poems about how sad you are about your dead grandmother or how much you love your cat, I imagine how many people are actually interested in obtaining and reading your work will be the true arbitor of whether it's worthwhile reading material.