Solid Quarter

Blood Jet Poetry Series in New Orleans, weekly poetry and music as well as open mic performances

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Chapbooks: Collection Tales


The photo on the left is a small collection of chaps that I've amassed over the last two months. About a dozen of them are DUSIE Kollectiv chaps mailed to me from people all over the country who were generous enough to mail their handmade chaps. There are about a dozen Belldonna series chaps in there as well. The photo below is a chap I received in the mail last week from Deborah Poe. I love how the postcard matches the chap, so they got a shot together. 
I tell you these things because all of those chaps on the left were on my desk and my husband somehow managed to spill an entire cup of coffee on my desk-- an entire freshly poured cup, my friends.
In some kind of chapbook miracle, only one chap actually was dripping. There were a handful of other items covered in coffee, including by some weird karmic fate Dave's forthcoming manuscript from Black Widow Press. 

So, the chap below is the one that got the coffee. It's called Turning 25 by Chantel Langlinais from poet Marthe Reed's small press  Nous-Zot. In an interesting turn of events, it created this abstract fade throughout the book. It almost looks like the rib cage of the book is now peeking through, and in an eerie coincidence the subject of the book is death and loss. Formally, the author pares down and extracts from poems, pulling the bones out as it were and then rearranging them so we get these sifted bits that in turn create new poems, albeit sparser echoes of their originals. From the introduction, the author states: "For each text, I turned the book to page twenty-five. The title of each poem corresponds to the 2nd and 5th word that appears on that page, and the poems are created from the words that fall down the left-hand side." Each poem has its own title and then beneath it says to "the poet" from whom the words are borrowed.



Here's a beautiful example from a Plath poem:

Years Familiar


 to Plath


twenty years bred water
waiting in the authentic
fantastic
we waver from ever

the shape intrudes
is closed
is glittering

yet the fabrication is such
that each day disguises many greens
sprouting

like icebergs
on arms that navigate
breaking us
among sacred shatters




I'm a big fan of borrowing as it were and rearranging. I think what we do as poets is see well and "see well again" how to shape and reshape words. I think words work in one poem in one particular way, but the amazing thing about them is that you can try them on and roll them out like your own little dough and then they fit you too. In this chapbook, Langlinais looks at not just poems, but the poems  that have shaped her writing. She fits them on to her grief, to her loss, to her sense of how forms change as we change in the world. It turns out that what you need you have and yet you have to take it and make it your own. I'm awed that a book about borrowing and taking then took a bit of the liquid magic that fuels my every morning and made it work as well. It made me look between stains at each word more closely; life is strange.

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