Our Favorite Chapbooks of 2010

by Brad Liening and Dustin Nelson

The title’s not exactly right, but it gives the general impression. These are some of our favorite chapbooks of 2010. Maybe a “representative sample of some quality chapbooks from 2010″ is the best way to put it. There were a lot of wonderful chapbooks that aren’t in here for one reason or another. If asked to put this together on a different day it might have included everything Ugly Duckling Press put out this year, or Ada Limón’s What Sucks Us In Will Surely Swallow Us Whole, or if Brad wasn’t involved I might have selected either of his chapbooks this year, or I might talk a little more about Dobby Gibson and Matt Hart’s collaborative chap Late Makeup Years and Decline (1979-1983) if I didn’t love Matt Hart’s The Hours so much.

Point being that we didn’t read everything there is and we don’t think that there aren’t any other good chapbooks out there. We wanted some material from all over the spectrum, type of writing, media, digital chaps, and hand-bound editions. Despite all the drawbacks to list-making, imperfect art that it is, we thought it important to highlight some quality chapbooks in our final issue of the year.


thehours_cover:: Garrett Caples: Quintessence of the Minor: Symbolist Poetry in English (Wave Books, Wave Pamphlet: One)
So, this isn’t exactly a chapbook, but I think it should be included. It’s a staple bound pamphlet that looks through some of the lesser names in symbolist poetry and attempts to formulate a theory on why minor poets are important. It’s exciting that Wave is going to start doing a series of these pamphlets and the book was fascinating even though I have no special interest in the Symbolists. -DN

:: Matt Hart: The Hours (Cinematheque Press)
This very short chap feels so cohesive. There is a conversation going on between the poems with their diction, language, and content. Every section and every poem rolls inward on itself like a fever dream, flashing through images and ideas rapidly. We obviously liked these a few of these, InDigest first published two of these five, “Sleeping Fit” and “Waking Fit” in a previous issue. (Read them here.) -DN

:: Steven Karl: (Ir)Rational Animals (Flying Guillotine Press)
Karl’s poems are dense and need to be carefully unraveled with each read. They are serious, yet forward and playful. He toys with the white space and punctuation, sometimes as a sort of inside joke between himself and the paper, and sometimes as a patchwork in a grand scheme. -DN

ben:: Ben Mirov: Collected Ghost (H_NGM_N PDF CHAPS)
This long collection of prose poems and verse traces the contours of a world which shifts and morphs crazily; where the physicality of our daily lives (salsa, booze, toothbrushes) collides with yearning, absence, and a pretty wicked sense of humor. -BL

:: Nate Pritts: Descriptive Sketches (J. Johnson)
The sketches of the title is not an accidental term: these poems operate beautifully by associative whirling and repetition, building an emotional meaning divorced from context or even referent. Strange and most lovely. -BL

:: Kim Gek Lin Short: The Bugging Watch & Other Exhibits (Tarpaulin Sky Press)
This collection is the story of Toland and Harlan and their interweaving emotional complexes and life distortions. These prose poems are eerie and full of strange diction that draws you deeper into their world. While they are often playful, they are more often bleak and dark with lines that burn an afterimage straight into your eyes. You can read an essay by Lin Short about putting the book together here. -DN

:LBT Final CD size: Zachary Schomberg: Little Blind Thing (Poor Claudia Press)
This is a collection of fragments of poems and pieces Schomberg has published elsehwere, but it’s all collected in DVD form with short films to accompany his reading of these poems (including one by Emily Kendall Fray). I have yet to find the poem/film that blows me away and proves the absolute viability of the collision of poetry and film, that they can work together without one suffering in favor of the other, but this is as close as I’ve seen to that synthesis. -DN

:: Nate Slawson: The Tiny Jukebox (H_NGM_N PDF CHAPS)
Slawson appropriates the language of pop culture via music and film for his own inventive purposes and also our delight: these poems are clipped and full of real emotion. Happily, they’re also hilarious. -BL


Dustin Nelson Dustin Luke Nelson

Dustin Luke Nelson is the author of the forthcoming collection "in the office hours of the polar vortex" (Robocup, 2015) and the chapbook "Abraham Lincoln" (Mondo Bummer, 2013). His 90-minute performance film "STRIKE TWO" debuted with Gauss PDF in April and his performance piece "Applause" debuted at the Walker Art Center's Open Field in June. His poems have or will appear in the Greying Ghost Pamphlet Series, Fence Magazine, Paper Darts, Opium, 3:AM, the Nervous Breakdown, and elsewhere. His digital self is housed at dustinlukenelson.com.

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