Review | Chapbook Omnibus Review
                Work by Lisa Fay Coutley, Saeed Jones, Patty Paine, Stella Vinitchi Radulescu
                (trans. Hankins), and Fritz Ward

spacer    In the Carnival of Breathing
   When the Only Light Is Fire
   I Was Afraid of Vowels . . . Their Paleness

Out of all the venues for publication, the chapbook, arguably, most risks ephemerality. Some would suggest that literary journals chance this fate more often, but any journal, top tier or small zine, has a reputation, built upon by its collaborative structure, whereas individual chapbooks seldom have a reputation except among the poet’s friends. Likewise, small editions and distribution, consumption in one sitting, and a reputation for slipshod design can all contribute to the transience of the form. Yet, chapbooks seem to thrive as they never have before. A walk through the book fair at a conference like the Association Writers and Writing Programs conference confirms this. Why has the chapbook surged? Why has the form secured its place as an expected prelude to a first book or a welcome respite for poets mid-career?

With the trend toward sequences, perhaps the writing community finds the chapbook’s length a comfortable space, large enough to solicitously explore its subject matter while assuring Poe’s “unity of effect.” Additionally, chapbooks resist the inundated market of books and celebrate “art for art’s sake.” Or perhaps it’s the publication process: never before has design been so important in the publishing community and, maybe more importantly, cheap. All of the chapbooks in this review, though not letterpress editions, have designs that usher the reader into opening them.

Lisa Fay Coutley, Saeed Jones, Patty Paine, Stella Vinitchi Radulescu, and Fritz Ward represent a wide range of voices and aesthetics, distinctions reflected in their presses’ presentation and design of their work. I have ordered the reviews in a spectrum from those that best mimic design elements befitting a full-length collection, to those that look more like traditional chapbooks, to the echapbook.  end