Saturday, 17 May 2008

chapbooks


it is 'chapbook season' or something. everyone is making chapbooks. i am making chapbooks. other people on the internet are making chapbooks. i passed a group of lads on the way to the shop yesterday to buy a pen for writing on CDs, and at first i thought they were about to beat me up, but as i got closer i realised they were just making a chapbook called 'i am going to kick your fucking face in.' this is a review of some chapbooks i received recently, with pictures of them taken around my flat (click photos for larger versions).


'the name of this band is the talking heads - issue 1' by Zachary German

i first heard ten or twelve poems of this at Zachary's reading at the KGB bar. i then read the remaining poems sat on a bench outside the hostel i was staying in in New York. then i think i read the whole thing again on the flight back to England. both reading them myself, and hearing them read, these poems made me laugh and think, 'this is good, something new is happening here, banality, this is exciting, this is so 'boring' or 'matter of fact' that it has become exciting somehow.' these poems feel kind of 'dashed-off' but i don't thing they have been, because the information seems ordered in the right way to make people laugh and understand them. i think this chapbook is sold out now, but is the first in a series.


'nowhere fast: brutalism one' by Tony O'Neill, Ben Myers, and Adelle Stripe

i read some of this sitting on my bed, and some of it on the sofa in the living room which at the moment smells mysteriously of dogshit, but didn't when i read this, i don't think. this one had a 'surprising' piece of string tied around it, and is printed on a nice kind of paper. it is very 'professionally' made and feels like a lot of time has gone into it. it has good illustrations by Lisa Cradduck. this poetry collection is focussed on three different places in England, it felt a bit like a group of people at a pub, trading stories about how horrible the town they grew up in was, but whereas that would normally be a bit dull, they are very interesting people and they all wait patiently for the other person to finish speaking before telling their anecdote, and don't exactly try to just 'top' the other person's anecdote, but instead to 'compliment' it or something with their own. i found the poems in here sometimes powerful and sometimes funny. it finished before i got bored reading it. i think this one hasn't sold out yet, i'm not sure.


'we are in exile here' by Colin Bassett

if i had to 'choose favourites', i would say this one i think. but i'm not going to do that. i read this one in an afternoon that was interrupted by something, i can't remember exactly what; i just remember sitting reading this chapbook and then having to do something else and feeling like i didn't want to do it, and then reading this chapbook again. it made me want to drink coffee. i think i read the second half of this chapbook drinking coffee. coffee drinking gets mentioned a lot. this is like a series of 'connected' stories or a short novel. after i finished reading it i felt very optimistic about a lot of things, even though i guess you would say that the subject matter was 'depressing' or maybe just 'boring'. i felt very excited about it. it has 'experimental' elements in terms of how the narrative is told which i wasn't expecting. i think Colin is printing more of these, but they are just a 'promotional device' for an online version, maybe.


'spam (email inspired poetry)' by Ben Myers

i read this sat on my bed at a time when the lightbulb had gone out and wouldn't turn on again and it was too late to go out and buy another. as it got darker i had to turn on a homemade lamp made out of a winebottle and christmas lights and squint and hope i didn't miss something 'important'. i occasionally felt like i was 'missing something important' reading these poems because they're abstract and feel very 'crafted' but then i kept reminding myself that they are made out of spam emails so maybe i wasn't 'missing something' after all. they made me think of William Burroughs a bit, but William Burroughs with a more pronounced sense of humour. i feel like they got funnier as they went along. there were lots of lines i wanted to remember or tell someone. i think i wanted there to be someone else in the bed with me just lying there quietly, so very occasionally i could read a line out to them and they would laugh or say 'What?' i think this book is published sometime this month, you can pre-order it.


'gravity's rainbow' by Shane Jones

this chapbook is half of a larger chapbook. i am not allowed to review the other half due to 'legal reasons'. i read these poems first as a microsoft word document which Shane Jones emailed me while we were chatting online. i think i typed back something like 'these are great'. i have read these five poems a number of times now, on screen and printed out, and really like them. they are funny and also kind of sad sometimes. Shane Jones, i feel, has done something good with poetry here, especially in the first couple. it made me realise, reading them, that i was thinking too 'logically' or something about poetry and that Shane Jones had just 'gone wild' but still in a very 'controlled' and 'crafted' way. there are 20 US copies and 20 UK copies of this chapbook available for free from monday by looking at either this blog or Shane Jones' blog.


'coffee' by Time Travel Opportunists

like the brutalist chapbook, this one has been printed on nice paper and feels like a lot of time has gone into it. it comes with 'bonus features' -- a CD and an envelope with a badge and a coffee bean inside. i am going to eat the coffee bean now. it was 'okay.' 'quite nice.' the CD is good; it sounds a bit like a 'love scene' in an 'indie film'. this chapbook is a collection by three people. the styles are all different but work well together. the stories are sometimes 'nice'-feeling (i feel paranoid that that is somehow a disparaging remark, but i don't think it is). even if the subject matter is 'not nice' these stories somehow still feel 'nice' or 'warm' or something. maybe i mean 'comforting'. i don't know. maybe it feels like you are going round to a house where a group of friends all live together and on the way you buy pizza and then are mugged and the mugger steals your wallet and your pizza and you arrive, shaken up, at the group of friend's house and they're very nice to you and sit you down and make you a cup of tea (or coffee, i guess) and try to say silly stuff to cheer you up.

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