Tuesday, January 9, 2018


In the front of most of my books is usually a list of previous books of mine. Some people over the years have questioned my including what many call "chapbooks"—a term used for books that have no spine, so if you place them in the normal way on a book shelf you couldn't see any title or author names (usually they're either side-stapled, or saddle-stitch stapled as in most magazines).

Many only consider "perfectbound" books (i.e. with spines) to be "real books." I just never felt that way. Some of my favorite books would fall into the category of "chapbook" and as a result not be taken as seriously as they should be—and most often these are poetry books. They are also sometimes unique works of art, as objects, their covers and typefaces and designs making them precious in ways that add to the pleasure of holding and reading them.

So here are some poetry books without spines that came out in 2017 that I didn't get a chance to write about but I don't want to go unmentioned.

Douglas Crase's THE ASTROPASTORALS—a beautiful slim volume of poetry from Pressed Wafer—shares the poetic craft and impact of the late John Ashbery's work, while still articulating Crase's own unique poetic voice and approach to the question of what makes a good poem. He is known in some poetry-loving circles as a poet's poet's poet, someone whose work is like a rarely experienced delicacy that must be savored to fully appreciate.  Here's some lines from "Theme Park":

Too much of a subject can interfere,
Be a drag, so subvert the procedure to which it refers
That the wisest course is to visit it just for fun,
Have fun, and make a clean getaway—wisdom
Already shed in the shiver of pilgrim foot
On the longed-for soil.

Geoffrey Young's THIRTY-THREE, from above/ground press, is thirty-three sonnets from one of my favorite poets whose work in recent years is often published privately in such limited editions that most poetry lovers wouldn't get the chance to see them. But these poems were selected from those rare chapbooks so give a taste of what's in them. His poetry is always sharp witted and sharply witty in ways no other poet achieves. I have never been dissatisfied with any of his books (many being so-called "chapbooks"—he calls them that himself) nor am I this time. Here's some lines from "Smooch":

Will you follow the poem no matter where it goes
No matter who's standing in the way, who's dragging you down
Who doesn't get it, and can't hack it?
When you get to the finish line

If you've got five people still with you
You should kiss their fucking feet.

Mark Terrill's COMPETITIVE DECADENCE from newferalpress is a selection of poems (and photographs by James LaFratta) that once again confirm why I've loved Terrill's poetry since reading his BREAD & FISH (on my top ten list of favorite poetry books since it came out in 2002 from The Figures, a press Geoff Young was running back then). This new collection lives up to my expectations with his usual intensely accurate observations about what it means to live a fully conscious life. Here's some lines from "Idiot Savant":

Eye to eye with an animal—
no language in common and yet
nothing is missing—
while the beasts hunt other beasts
in the light that shines at night.
From which moments on
do all other moments
suddenly become subordinate?

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