Poetry Friday: Chap Books

One of my recent writing projects has been gathering and editing some poems for chap books.

Chap books are short (20-40) pages of poetry based on a theme. In essence, they are a short book. Historically, English peddlers sold chap books as cheap (chap/cheap) entertainment for the masses. The word, chap, dates back to 1824. Chap books were around long before that time!

One of my motivations in writing chap books is to share my poems in a written, hopefully published, form with my mom. My mom will be 84 at the end of this month. Recently, she’s been experiencing health issues unrelated to the pandemic. Her ailing health has prompted two trips from Wisconsin to New York in 2021, with a third planned this fall. She and my dad (85) still live in their own home with a 2 acre yard.

I digress. My mom taught third grade for thirty years. I believe I got my love for words, writing, and poetry from her. I would like to be able to give her a book I’ve written and published in print (not digitally). Thus, my mom, her age, and our common interests have inspired me to write these chap books.

Of course, I’ve needed help with the process. I have the content – poems. I have grouped them around a common theme – color poems for one book and nature poems in another. I’ve been self editing as well as getting opinions from beta readers. Editing takes time, objectivity, and investment in producing a professional product, as well as the good will of others who help proofread and give suggestions on the work. I am getting close tweaking the content for my color poem chap book. Once that is done, hopefully within the next week, I will work on the nature poem chap book. I believe I got my love for nature from my dad – you see where this is going! Right?!

To get help with the process I turned to a YouTube video by Billy Collins in Master Class (link to source below). As always, his suggestions were helpful and enlightening. In summary, Collins suggests:

  • Knowing your audience
  • Focusing on a theme – showcasing your best work and personal style, including cover art
  • Assessing your publishing options
    • Seek out a publisher
    • Enter a contest
    • Self Publish
  • Expanding your audience

Source: How to Write a Poetry Chapbook: Tips for Writing and Publishing Poetry

Another source I consulted was a Writer’s Digest article: What’s a Poetry Chap Book?

This site went over the advantages of chap books. They offer a proof of concept, they are easy to self publish, they are affordable to produce, they are only part of a body of work, and they make it easier to focus since the size of the publication is pre-defined. The article in Writer’s Digest also linked to another article on how to organize your chapbook. Again, help with the process is essential.

There are other process sources for chap books, too. The bookriot website and the Writer’s Write website both offer logistic help in setting up your chapbook layout. You can check those out if you have a more vested interest in this topic.

To extend my immersion in color poems, I had my writer’s circle work on some of their own yesterday. I developed a method over the six years of hosting writer’s circle in the past. Students generally enjoy both writing and reading color poems. As I have shared before, I always use Mary O’Neill’s Hailstones and Halibut Bones (1961) as the mentor text for this lesson.

My chap book project is coming full circle as the copy I have of O’Neill’s book was my mom’s.

Have you written a chap book before? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

There are a few colors I am working on adding to my chap book. Yesterday, I worked on the color purple while my student was working on her blue poem. Here is a sample from my first two stanza’s on purple:

Purple is the color of royalty.

Kings, Saxons, and Celts all adorn thee.

It is deep and rich, with a sharp contrasting hue,

When lilacs, petunia, asters, and clematis all bloom for you.

© Part of drafted poem, Carol Labuzzetta, 2021

Today is Poetry Friday! Our host is: Mary Lee at A(nother) year of reading. Be sure to check her post and links to other poets. Thanks for hosting Mary Lee!

17 thoughts

  1. I (along with a few others) have been exploring the idea of creating a chapbook of poems. You’re WAY further along in the process than I am. Will you self-publish, or are you going to send them out for publication? Either way, good for you that you are honoring your parents in this beautiful and meaning-full way!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mary Lee, sorry for my late reply. I am intriqued with self publishing and have done a lot of reading about that through different platforms. I think I will definitely do that for my mom’s copy of the chapbook just because I want her to have it sooner than later. I also what to see what a proof copy looks like when it’s done. Good luck in your own pursuits. I feel like I have made progress this summre on this project, so tht pleases me.

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  2. Carol,
    I have never written a chapbook, but you are inspiring me to! Thank you for the resources. I’m bookmarking them in my poetry folder.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow! Bookmarking this post. Thank-you for generously sharing your thoughts and links. I am sure you mother will love (and be so proud of) this. Cheering you on in your chap book project!

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    1. Heidi, Thank you! My mom is “old fashioned” and doesn’t read my blog. To her, publishing is the ultimate success of being a writer. I aim to make her (and my dad, too) proud of me through this effort. It’s a simple idea, and not a new one, but I like that I’ve been able to make process on it.

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  4. You’ve described some loving work, Carol, the project of chapbooks for your parents. I love that you ended this poem part with flower purple, the color loved in the summer, and most likely by your parents with their two acres! I haven’t every thought of creating a chapbook but thanks for the links, will keep them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Michelle, Can you tell me if you included your own illustrations with the chapbooks you submitted? Your drawings are so beautiful! I have some nice landscape/nature photography I’ve been thinking about adding in future if I do more than this one. Good luck with self publishing! I think I am going to try to do that too after a submission or tow.

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