|More details of this chapbook can be found here|
How would you define a chapbook?
I have been asked this question a few times since my recent 2012 chapbook (above), co-authored with John Dotson, was published.
Most people are au fait with 'poetry pamphlets'; and in many or most cases today, a chapbook and a pamphlet are synonymous. Indeed, some Oxford Dictionaries say as much. What fascinates me, however, is the origin of the word, 'chapbook'. Perhaps chapbooks are more widely known these days on the western side of the Atlantic.
Here are a few facts:
- the word has its origin in the 'chapmen' or itinerant hawkers, who by the 1600s would often peddle small stitched-together pamphlets of poems, ballads, alphabets and short prose. The Old English for such people was céapmann. Our word, 'cheap', is linked to this, and was originally indicative of a good deal. 'Chap' as in 'very good chap' came to mean a potential or actual customer. An 18th century example of the word appears here.
- chapbooks reached the height of their appeal in the last quarter of the 18th century.
- the historical progress of the chapbook is hard to document because few records were kept by those who sold these small works - and many chapbooks were 'of the moment' and not produced with longevity in mind.
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge published his 1796 series entitled The Watchman in chapbook format, thereby giving the reputation of the chapbook a facelift.
- The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine (who was born not far from here in Thetford) was published in chapbook form. Thousands of copies of this publication were produced.
The commissioned chapbook series runs as follows:
Poet to Poet #1: Bridging the Waters: Swansea to Sag Harbor
by Vince Clemente and Peter Thabit Jones (2008)
Poet to Poet #2: First and Last Things
by J.C. Evans and Annabelle Moseley (2009)
Poet to Poet #3: Nightwatch
by Aeronwy Thomas and Maria Mazziotti Gillan (2010)
Poet to Poet #4: Poems East Coast/West Coast
by Stanley H. Barkan and Carolyn Mary Kleefeld (2010)
Poet to Poet #5: The Holy Place
by John Dotson and Caroline Gill (2012)
Poet to Poet #6
by Sultan Catto and Jean Salkilld - forthcoming