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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Chapbook-Publishing: Raising Integrity, Building Trust

I am on an ambitious mission to raise not only awareness of chapbooks, but also the standards by which they are crafted. The benefits would be two-fold: On one hand, readers would likely be more inclined to pick up a copy if it were crisp, substantial, containing some color and not just looking like photocopied pages stapled together. On the other hand, more authors and poets would embrace chapbooks as a vehicle for delivering their words if they were to know that they could trust the chapbook’s presentation. It’s a win-win for readers and writers, but what about the publishers? They can win, too.

Many chapbook publishers, however, showcase economy in production and manifest shortcuts in the final product. Many of them would grumble at the expense of quality paper (over ten cents per sheet), and then there is ink, and wear and tear on printers, and plenty of time spent on presentation. However, in the long run, it is not a loss, because with an exercise of integrity, what is gained is much larger than initial small profits: trust.

With integrity comes confidence that trust will be fostered and good seeds will be cultivated. With trust comes repeat business, and referrals, and growth.

There will always be new novels written, and there will always be a need for book-printers, but there is something quaint, something “made with love” about chapbooks – something that is missing entirely from full-sized books. It is the responsibility of chapbook publishers to make the chapbook reading experience as pleasant, even indulgent as possible, for the eyes as well as the mind, and the place to begin improving is with presentation.

Writers: Request that chapbook publishers lower their prices or raise their standards if they do not use at least twenty-four pound paper, and if they do not print in color, and if they do not trim the edges – gratis – for presentation’s sake! Such publishers who would not abide by standards of integrity should not be in the business to lower the standards of what should be a fine literary craft, and a high-demand reading niche.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2011 in Literary News & Articles

 

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Penny University

For nearly two decades, I dreamed of owning a coffee house complete with mahogany woodwork, a fireplace with leather wing-back chairs, the mingling scent of coffee and sweet pipe tobacco, and walls covered with shiny pennies, alive with the reflection of dancing flames. I would have called such a coffee house Penny University so as to attract dignified patrons and encourage stimulating conversation.

Three hundred years ago, in London, there were over three-thousand coffee houses that were sometimes referred to as penny universities because (according to Jean Gordon’s Coffee Recipes, Customs, Facts & Fancies) “they were great schools of conversation, the natural meeting place for wits, wags, poets and philosophers, their fascination depending on the fact that coffee stimulates the brain.”


Then a quatrain follows:

So great a Universitie
I think there ne’er was any;
In which you may a Schoolar be
For spending of a penny.




To enter these penny universities cost a penny at the door, and two more pennies were charged for coffee and to contribute to the cost of newspapers and lights. Men spent so much time in these coffee houses that in 1674, their wives joined and formally petitioned against them to the extent that in 1675, Charles II officially suppressed coffee houses. It only lasted for eleven days, so great was the stir for a lack of communal coffee and poetic pontification!

Most coffee houses today pale in comparison to the images conjured of former times and places, and poets huddle at computers (coffee to the left) embracing cyber-conversation, sharing lines, trading critiques, and dreaming of penny universities.

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2011 in Literary News & Articles

 

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Hard Rain and Thunderstorms: Collected Poems by Jamie Collins

(Reviewed by Andrew Buckner,
author of Song of Survival: Poetry in the Key of Freedom.)

In Hard Rain and Thunderstorms: Collected Poems, master wordsmith Jamie Collins’ sixth and most current volume of original verse, the ever-engaged reader becomes witness to the stalwart strength and phenomenal influence of a passionate soul magnificently addressing the genuine ideal of the innumerable relationships every being carries within us throughout the tribulation-laden privations of our entirety in our commonplace existence. Speaking, more often than not, as a singular representative of all like-minded citizens of mankind, he eloquently discourses on our dealings. From more direct forms of the sentiment, such as yearned for desire to be romantically entangled with another being on works such as the majestically earnest, gorgeously penned ballads as “My Love” where Collins states this aforementioned admiration through an intricate web of immaculately woven metaphors married with tender, sympathetic imagery.

Outside of these more commonly associated forms of personal interactions, Collins communicates triumphantly about our human affairs with nature as in the ardently resourceful narrative “Bird’s Song”. The aforementioned piece uncovers Collins weaving a characteristically fashioned opus that brings to mind the contemplations of a love ballad to these wonderful creatures from a human perspective. This present ideal of appreciation and oneness towards our uncorrupted global backdrop is at its most riveting, dazzling and intense in the composition that precedes “Bird’s Song” dubbed “Mountain Song”. Here Collins masterfully personifies the sweeping melody of the fields and the musical opus concerning all that tenderly surrounds nature’s picturesque beauty in a rhythmic, whimsical manner. “As I Stood upon the Mountaintop”, one of the single best unions of pen to paper in the tome, carries on this particular line of deliberation luminously as it delicately converses of the sense of magnificent triumph, and undeniable concord with the environmental world one feels when involved in the action the title bares.

Hard Rain and Thunderstorms is at its most uncompromisingly personal and subjective in compositions such as “Slow Suicide”. In this tremendously honest bit, Collins furthers the varying theme of modern-day mortal relationships by weaving a tremendous ode to both his nicotine addiction and also the brutal drudgery of withdraw. This is done brilliantly and with a clear, intelligent and knowing focus as he sees this aforementioned compulsion through the iris of a more traditional correlation where he knows greatly of the evident danger but still cannot heed his obsessions.
Collins continues to weave his individual torment into a more introspective and pain-stricken manner in poetic works such as the abandoned and outcast visions perfectly personified in the staggeringly sorrowful “I Know What It’s Like” and the darkly alluring “One of the Nights I killed Myself”. In these pieces, we further glimpse into his haunted and secret agony expertly from a First Person view that amplifies the exemplified misery found within. Those poetic compositions are immaculate in their transcendence of his brimming melancholy, and Collins finds the perfect atmospheric note to bring his grief-stricken meditations unto the page.

What lies as the cornerstone of the entire volume appears to be Collins’ ever-changing outlook on religion. Often the underlying topic of an omnipotent creator is brought forward in tones occasionally praising, sporadically denouncing, yet the most potent is the mocking and overwhelmingly cynical tone found in “I God Am”. This is amongst the most powerful pieces in the entire gathering and his wordplay here is simply searing as he views God as a being looking down gleefully on the destruction and infinite chaos he has brought upon the world.

As is evident from above, Collins utilizes mainly classic subject matter within the work’s sixty pages but flawlessly unveils an aesthetic method to mix it with commonplace attitudes, contemplations and sensibility. He evokes a stylistic banter in this effort that is forthright yet heartfelt, gentle and aggressive, staggeringly complex while comprehensive. To coincide with this, especially the timeless focuses at hand, the melodic lyricism he often displays within the pages of this opus is wonderfully reminiscent of the Victorian era of poetic odes and song. This is quite a tremendous feat and Collins pulls it off effortlessly.

The above mentioned classic style is best utilized, and also most visible, in such heart-rendering eulogies as “In Time of Sleeping”, where he discourses on our own mortality through the unblinking iris of the deceased. With this he employs the previously stated method of word usage alongside subject matter to bring the composition to powerful, immaculately conceived being. This is done equally as well in “Ode to No One” where he brings to wonderfully embodied life his thoughts of death’s ever-watching eye. These respective poetic ballads view Collins returning to the contemplation of demise and its release from the gnawing extremities of painful existence in a mature, clever fashion rarely seen erupting from the pens of modern authors.

Largely because many of the poetic terminologies in this singular assortment are under twenty five lines in duration, the overall pace of the volume remains rapid fire yet every bit as graceful and focused as the works themselves. The swift-stepped movement of this collection of rhyme is due primarily to Hard Rain and Thunderstorms‘ flawlessly conceived layout. Subject matter and form are aligned in such a striking, fully deliberated approach that every continued composition in the volume’s duration appears, whether articulated or in a subtle technique, to be continuing on all previously addressed topics. This execution works and aids tremendously in making the entire publication an utterly unproblematic read.

Conclusively, Hard Rain and Thunderstorms: Collected Poems exists as an extraordinarily well thought out, complete, well-rounded and serenely tasteful effort that exhibits Collins as a voice of experience, wisdom and supreme intellectual capabilities. His undeniable appreciation for modern terminology and ageless expression, as well as unbounded substance and concrete thought, evokes a fresh, unique mode of communication that makes him a commanding wielder of the spoken word. Collins’ use of personification, imagery, mood and overall language make him as a truly magnificent writer worthy of great admiration and acclaim as well, and this refreshing assembly of verse, an absolute must-own.

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2011 in Poetry Reviews

 

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The Present-Day Proliferation of Chapbooks

(By Christina Anne Taylor of Middle Island Press)

Some people still look disparagingly upon chapbooks despite their widespread acceptance today. Chapbooks are tainted with a history of having emerged from the dregs beneath literary propriety. They have delivered (among all else) subversive literature of a persuasive nature for centuries, and they are a convenient medium for people to get their opinions into the hands of the public without being censored by the common dogmatic watchdogs of publishing. The very word chapbook has been kicked down, stepped on, and dragged through the mud. Despite this underground sort of reputation, chapbooks have risen to a fine craft and are gaining respectability.

Credit for this shift in opinion goes to things such as heightened awareness of the gifts to society that chapbooks have become. Despite the dingy history, it is increasingly known that very notable literary figures embraced the chapbook as a means to deliver their words to the masses: William Shakespeare, James Joyce, and T.S. Eliot, to name a few.

Furthermore, the clean precision of print technology has led to professional-looking little books that can rival with big-name publishers in quality. Chapbook publishers and those who self-publish can usually afford several sheets of paper as opposed to folding and cutting a single sheet for maximum pages per sheet (as was standard before extravagance became the norm, and they certainly would have resembled a kindergarten project at times). Printed chapbooks also look far more professional (in the sense of published words for marketing) than does penmanship on folded sheets of paper, so it is without guilt that writers can charge book prices for their little literary gems.

There is also a more artful presentation gaining momentum that is raising the bar of chapbooks. For a fortunate artistic few with a lot of time on hand, chapbooks are presented as a fine craft akin to advanced scrap-booking, complete with fabric, ribbons and lace, and multi-dimensional covers that command prominent display (and higher price tags).

As chapbook publishers come into contact with improving standards of other publishers, quality should continue to escalate until such a time that there should be no disparity between a European-made chapbook and an American-made chapbook. Having said that, let chapbooks bloom in full color, let them be trimmed to the golden ratio, and let the rest be considered little more than stapled literature.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2011 in Literary News & Articles

 

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American Chapbook Review – Winter 2012

American Chapbook Review, a biannual online publication that will feature reviews and other items of interest regarding chapbooks (both antiquarian and current), is scheduled to release its first issue in February 2012. We welcome the receipt of chapbooks for review, and we will consider submissions of academic-style reviews (with brief reviewer biographies included), but we will not guarantee their use.

Mail chapbooks with contact information to:

American Chapbook Review
P. O. Box 354
West Union, WV 26456

Submit reviews (for the time being) to:

literata72@yahoo.com

Chapbook publishers may also advertize calls for chapbook anthology submissions and information on no-fee contests at the above e-mail address.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2011 in Literary News & Articles

 

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Coffee with Andrew Buckner

Andrew Buckner, along with acting in three Independent motion pictures, is the author of two full-length poetry books. They are The Human Condition and Song of Survival: Poetry in the key of Freedom. His children’s book Grand Poppa’s Favorite Chair and his dual autobiography Into Existence’s Immortal Flame have just been released. He has also released poetry through Middle Island Press:
The Flesh Is a Prison and Unity Amidst Our Suffering. As a screenwriter, he has co-authored the horror work Whispers in the Darkness with Russell Stiver. Currently, he is working on his first novel.

***************************************


(“Coffee with the Poets” interviews are conducted
by Christina.)


[Andrew joins us from Ohio, dressed smartly and greeting politely, and he takes his coffee with French vanilla creamer.]

MIP: Beautiful September day! Being that poets have sensibilities for these things, what is your favorite month of the year, and why?

AB: My favorite month of the year would undoubtedly be October. With the beauty of Fall abounding and the hot suns of summer officially vanquished, it is always the time when I find myself most inspired by nature.

MIP: You just released another collection of poems through Middle Island Press: a two-volume collection called Unity Amidst Our Suffering, and you also have a child forthcoming. (Congratulations!) When your little one is big enough to listen to your poetry, which poem amid Unity would you be most enthused to read aloud to him or her, and why?

AB: Although I speak of many subjects such as police brutality, political corruption and the horrors of racism, which are absolutely vital subjects for older children to be made brutally aware of, I would have to chose “When the Curtain Falls” as the single poetic work I would be most excited to read to my child. It is a true First Person recollection from the eyes of an innocent that tells of what a genuinely wonderful person my grandfather was, and of the crushing pain and sorrow I felt as I watched him helplessly fall victim to Alzheimer’s. The reason I selected this for my child to hear of would be for two reasons. The first would be the great chance it would be to find out about what a genuinely terrific individual, and true inspiration, the child’s great-grandfather was to me. My second reason would be to learn of the unfailing, eternal bond and positive impact of family which is the perfect lesson for a father to carry on to the next generation of his kin.

MIP: Your mode of expression reads as lyrically on the page as it sounds to the ear when you rhapsodize. How long have you been honing your poetic skills, and what qualities do you strive for?

AB: I would say my first few fledgling attempts at poetry were in either the First or Second Grade when I first became mesmerized with the advanced spoken word poetry style of Rap music and also rhymed verse on the page. So in that sense I would say it has been over two decades, yet it wasn’t until I was about twelve or thirteen when I began to make it a goal to write as often as I could. Perhaps it is because of the roots of my inspiration to write being woven from a foundation of musical verse that expressed the problems of society as well as the agony of the oppressed but these have become the qualities I have striven for. As I became older and became inspired by the works of poets such as Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, and Saul Williams, I swore a silent vow to myself to always inject content into my personal verse that reflected the social and political struggles of my time. Being that these forms of oral and penned verse have had such an overwhelming impact on me, I wanted to craft my style as a bridge between poetry on the page and the popular form of spoken word that is Rap. Also, as in the work of Hughes, Angelou, Williams, as well as Hip Hop emcees such as Tupac Shakur, whose honesty and brilliance guide me to this day I would like to assess awareness, honesty and knowledge of the events shaping the world around me as the cornerstone of my work.

MIP: Your poetry in general is extremely passionate and at times boldly strident, yet you are a gentle person ruled by heart. If you could improve something within your community, what would it be?

AB: We definitely need to see more organizations and programs which help those in need: after school programs, shelters for the homeless, more kind-hearted charities and gatherings of activists. These are absolutely vital in aiding not only a community, but the world entire to thrive and grow in a way which is absolutely necessary to any area in our age. If we were to see more of these types of assemblies it would not only provide the positive change mentioned locally, but also it would give those who are involved a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem which are the seeds which make good men and women become great.

MIP: Much of your poetic work is free-flowing in style, but you also have a talent for crafting forms (as becomes evident in your being selected to contribute to an anthology titled A Fancy of Formalities). What is your favorite form to write in, and what do you like about it?

AB: Of the various forms I’ve worked with, I would say that I enjoy Sestinas the most. The reason for this would be that it really underlies that various meanings a single word can take on through repetition. Also, I admire the unpredictable, avant garde style a poem in this form usually takes.

MIP: Is it also your favorite form to read, or do you have another preference for reading enjoyment?

AB: Sestinas are truly beautiful poetic works for many reasons but being a lifelong admirer of the works of Shakespeare I feel more inclined to say the sonnet is my favorite form. The iambic pentameter is a bit daunting at first but the end result is well worth the patience and dedication the form demands.

MIP: What are your literary aspirations?

AB: My aspirations always have been to right the wrongs of the world through the eternal, undying power of words as well as leave an honest chronicle of the thoughts, attitudes, political and social events of my time. I have always believed that is every serious author’s duty to do so. This way, we can have someone hundreds of years from now who is curious as to what it would have been like to live in our time look at our works and get a clear vision of the era in which we dwelled.

MIP: So you aspire for your words to be a bridge that facilitates the unity of cultures and societies, and you wish for the people of 2200 to have a clear picture of 2011. That sounds ideal! Would you consider yourself an idealist in the realm of poetry?

AB: Yes, I would say I am an idealist in the sense that I whole-heartedly believe words can shape our present as well as our future. Also, I am an idealist in my manner of thinking that with my aspired hopes, my penned sentiments will be able to paint a timeless portrait of my age for the sake of upcoming generations.

MIP: It is my pleasure to share your words with the world, and I wish you many successes in poetry and in life. May I also share some lines from one of my personal favorite poems of yours?

AB: Absolutely!

MIP: “Incriminating Time” (Lines 16-40)
from Unity Amidst Our Suffering, Volume II

So inescapable, incriminating time!
For I can see the encapsulating gates
Of adulthood and its prison-like barbed wire
And the streetlights of old age rising,
Yet I’m
Still lost in adolescence’s cerulean fire!

So inescapable, incriminating time!
Release me,
For I am fed up with being stepped on!
Losing my strength,
Being a forsaken pawn
At arm’s length!

More than anything I’m tired
Of sinking beneath life’s murky undertow!
More than anything I’m tired
Of believing I can survive
This ocean of distress and its infuriated flow!

For who is this man in the mirror?
I think I realize him
Less and less every day!

Though in this moment,
These eyes of green
Shall never see clearer

The reason
Why I must exist this way!

MIP: Forthright honesty from your innermost depths is one of your endearing qualities, and on that note, thank you for allowing me an opportunity to interview you.

AB: Thank you for this great opportunity!

*************

Andrew Buckner’s poetry and prose can be found online through various websites, and his most recent collections can be found through Middle Island Press.

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2011 in Literary News & Articles

 

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Appalachian Rivules

Middle Island press has just released Appalachian Rivules, an insightful collection by poet Raymond Neely of West Virginia. It is available through the MIP site and soon will also be available through amazon.com. Copies can also be purchased directly from the poet (contact middleislandpress@yahoo.com for his contact information).

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2011 in Literary News & Articles

 

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