Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Chapbooks of 2007

I read a fair few chapbooks in 2007, partly because I like the format anyway, and partly because I review them for Sphinx. And there were plenty of goodies. Let's recap on a few...

I'll start with HappenStance. The Small Hours, by Irish poet Tom Duddy, and
Twenty-Three Poems, by Rialto editor Michael Mackmin, came out at the end of 2006, but I only bought them in January. Both were both fine collections that have demanded re-reading. OK, I'm biased, but I think they both added greatly to HappenStance's burgeoning reputation. There's a new crop of books from HappenStance just out, too, so I'll be working my way through them ASAP.

Robert Hamberger's Heading North (I think that was the title - I can't find it online just now) was an excellent retelling of John Clare's journey from an Essex asylum back to his childhood home, while Peter Brennan's Torch of Venus was probably my favourite of the year, a taut, songlike sequence that blurred the line between the mainstream and the more left-field.

From across the pond, LouAnn Muhm's Dear Immovable was similarly pared-down yet musical, and packed a real emotional punch (there's a full collection to follow soon, too), and Celia Lisset Alvarez's The Stones was evocative and sensual, if a little overwritten in parts.

Finally, I loved Rob Hindle's Some Histories Of The Sheffield Flood, 1864. OK, it came out in 2006 too, but I was just catching up. It's a superb mixture of real history and poetry, with an accumulation of detail being used to excellent effect.

I think, and hope, that chapbooks are steadily gaining ground in the marketplace, not least because they offer a cheap way of tasting different poets. They offer new poets a chance to get their work out there, and more and more established, 'name' poets seem to be using them to publish stand-alone sequences, etc, that might not fit in a full collection. The more the better, I say.

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