For the better part of a week, I’ve been tidying my office. A full 99% of that time was spent trying to wrangle books into their proper places on the shelves. (They move in the night--QRs tucking themselves in amongst the BLs and E605s snuggling against the C600s, all of them laughing at me while I search in vain for a particular title.)
In the course of this project, I found all manner of books that I’d forgotten I own. It’s possible that the job would have been completed sooner if I hadn’t spent so many hours sitting down to peruse the surprise of various volumes, but the delay was absolutely worth it.
Among the newly-discovered treasures – chapbooks! There are dozens and dozens of them, filled with poems by old friends, acquaintances, and (in a few cases) strangers who somehow convinced me to shell out $2-3 for their collected works.
I was a poet back in the day, before making the switch to prose. I, too, had my chapbooks, and I recall clearly how delightful it was to have someone offer to purchase one of them. It wasn’t about the money; it was never about the money. Poets just love to have their life’s blood read and appreciated. In fact, I’d venture to say that poets would rather be read than to breathe. There is a pure spirituality to these creatures, a soul-purpose that sets them apart from all other humans.
While poetry chapbooks have changed over the years, the poets are still much the same as they always were. They don’t jump up and down and demand to be noticed, so you have to look carefully to spot one in its native habitat. And when you do encounter one of these mystical bards, please buy a chapbook or just ask to hear a poem. It’s good for both of you.