What the Heck is a Chapbook

I’m glad you asked.

Outside of the poetry world nobody seems to know what a chapbook is. So when I tell them that I have published two chapbooks and a third as a collaboration with my son, they often nod in puzzlement, happy for me, but obviously perplexed by my wording. Sometimes they ask, “A chat book?”

In a local paper recently, it was announced that Micah and I would be reading from our new “chapter book.” Granted, at some point I may have used that analogy: Think chapter, rather than a whole collection, or novella as apposed to a hefty novel. But that’s not really quite right either, and it’s certainly not historically or etymologically correct. In any case, the library where we are reading (virtually) has the wording correct on their website and social media, so I’m assuming it was just a non-poetry-reading newspaper editor who made the “correction.”

Poets, of course know. It’s often the next step after publishing in a few literary journals and magazines, before publishing a full length collection. It’s an inexpensive purchase, and therefore a wonderful way to get poetry into people’s hands. But it can alI’m thrilled that twice now my work has landed at Seven Kitchens Press. Check out that work out by looking here.

And if you want to a short but comprehensive and informative little article about the history of the chapbook phenomenon, I recommend this piece from the Poet’s House digital collection.

Got a favorite?

Do you have a favorite chapbook? Old or new? Have you published one of your own? Small press, big press, self published? Share it in the comments! Meanwhile, happy reading. And writing!

Oh, and if I haven’t said it too much already, buy one (or all!) of my three chaps. And thanks in advance.

Poster for the literary magazine by Will H Bradley, 1895

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