Dancing Girl Press, edited by Kristy Bowen, has been publishing chapbooks since 2004 in handmade editions of about 100; each chapbook features a female poet. Every summer, you can stock up on some of these well-made chaps during their summer sale.
This summer I got Danielle Vogel's Lit (2008), [picture above]. The deep brown cover with the simple line drawing belies the dense language and music hidden between the pages of this slim chap. The author notes that this is part one of an "exploration in dislocation." And yet, from the first page, the poems begin to pile up in images and inquiries; the "i" of the poem searching and redefining that which should be familiar. Within this extended meditation, the speaker examines stillness and back of that, all the movements within that stillness, every day words takes on new shapes: "where the edges are not sharp yhell o mm hoon sspire hull and as the sounds touch the shape i can see the image of these things for the first time" These prose poems have an inner intensity as they push and pull their way through understanding and assembling what it means to be conscious, what it means to be bodied, what it means to be rounded and formed by sound and letters. Lit is a beautiful jumping off into a discovery that I want to see more of from this author.
Claire Hero's Cabinet begins with a curious poem called "A Note on the Collection." It provides an interesting subtext for the following poems in that it neither reveals the author's intent per say nor does it fall short in its exotic array of images thrown together to elicit a catalogue of mystery and surprise. All of Hero's poems do this; they mystify and they surprise as they try on words and craft juxtapositions with the light handed tone of one laying out patterns for some grand scheme. We've been invited to the fitting, but the pieces are in process, being assembled before our eyes: "a hoard of doorknobs from each emptied room,/ a skin rough-cut by every last touch. Later,/a city turning to sand, a mouldering eagle gorgeous with prey." In this collection, items emerge in numbered titles, doors open to reveal the smallest bones of the ear or a fairy tale swerves: "But O!/ the voyage, the voyager" Hero's poems never let you down; they marvel in the fantastic, the fetish, the furious conjunctions that tempt and torment us.
Emma Bolden's The Sad Epistles has a striking cover image also by the author. This chapbook consists of ten epistles between an unknown sender and receiver. The epistles establish an intimate dialogue as they attempt to explain and defend precarious emotions such as "Epistle III An Answer to the Question Why Are You Shaking": "Because I'll search to destroy, spider slicing its web, duck peeking its warm nest of eggs/ I would weave nests for you. I would hatch myself whole." "Epistle VIII" begins more objective, reading as an equation but it quickly dissolves into a searing confession. Promises to adhere to a certain standard are thrown out and in all these epistles, there is the sense of fleeing a burning building. The metaphoric heart is caught chest-deep, a cage of its own making perhaps or a stopping place before the bird flies through the bones.