Reader’s Roundtable: Our Favorite Chapbooks
At Frontier, we are so proud of our diverse team of readers. They are volunteers and givers—receiving only the heartpayment of poems, on poems, on poems. Every one of these poets is such a valuable piece of what we do, and we want to share their incredible value with you. This month, we asked three reader to share their favorite chapbooks with us.
What’s your favorite chapbook of poetry and why?
Currently, my favorite chapbook is When Minerva’s Knees Hit the Ground by Amanda Oaks. It’s a collection of poetry inspired by the music of the Deftones. What I find so inspiring about it is how the author was able to aesthetically imitate the soul of their music – while still articulating their individual voice and language within the symbolism they’ve found from the music. It’s a hard task to accomplish, and this poet was able to thoughtfully achieve that goal.
‘Tell Me Like You Mean It: New Poems from Young and Emerging Writers’. It’s an e-chapbook edited by Melody Paloma and Mikaila Hanman Siegersma (Frankie) and was jointly published by Australian Poetry and Cordite Poetry Review. It includes the work of 21 emerging (though they use that term with trepidation) poets.
Despite the wide range of voices featured in this collection, the chapbook has been curated in such an attentive way as to maintain stability despite breadth and draws consistency from the sort of quiet succinctness of each poem. It’s a truly excellent read.
While all the poems are magnificent, I’m particularly fond of these five; Jessica Mei Cham’s ‘seepage swan lake’, Anupama Pilbrow’s ‘my mother told this story of the white girl in the library’, Stacey Teague’s ‘taitamāhine’, Saaro Umar’s ‘untitled’, and Alison Whittaker’s ‘murrispacetime’.
I’m a pretty slow reader and, unfortunately, I typically don’t have as much time to devote to reading a day as I’d like. This means that, with the brief moments I manage to find to read, I don’t make much progress through the collections I’m excited about. However, I’m recently realizing how, instead of finishing a chapbook in one or two sittings like my peers can, I end up spending weeks with them instead. This way, I spend a lot more time with the poet and I become a bit more intimate with their work. Through this rather frustrating lack of time and reading speed, I often get a better feel of how each poem affects me over a day, or maybe a week.
This is all to say that if you spend enough time with them, any chapbook can become your favorite. Thus you can maybe see how hard it might be for me to just pick one. So instead of giving you a list of all the chapbooks I’ve ever read, I’ll talk about the one that I’ve most recently finished.
Leila Chatti’s Tunsiya/Amrikiya makes the craft look easy. In her poems, she reaches for and deftly unravels her identity, an identity that exists in the space between two places of origin: Tunisia and America. There are vivid recountings here of childhood and familial relationships. There are skillful interrogations of place and language. All the poems seem flawless, and Chatti’s aesthetic is particularly tuned and consistent. This book is my favorite because, as an immigrant, I am also trying to reach for and unravel an identity that exists between two places. This book is my favorite because it keeps nudging my gears and advancing all the ways I think of language. Tunsiya/Amrikiya makes me want to write.