Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Chapbook in Progress

Several months ago I received an invitation to publish a chapbook as part of the Greatest Hits series published by Pudding House Publications in Ohio. According to the information I received, this is an invitational series. A poet is nominated by the last poet who had a chapbook with the press. I won't reveal the name of my kind nominator, but I send him much appreciation. After a nomination is received, then a committee of six determines whether or not to issue the invitation. The series now includes close to 300 chapbooks.

As this invitation arrived right around the same time my new book was coming out, I asked to delay it for several months so I could give my full attention to the new book. Delay granted. I was instructed to select my 12 greatest hit poems, that is, the ones most often requested, most talked about, most well-travelled. That ought to be easy, but wasn't. It was easy enough to select the first 6 or so. The others, not so easy. I'd make a selection and then realize, no, that's one of my favorites, but it hasn't really circulated as much as others. I was instructed not to choose my favorites but my greatest. Then, of course, it's hard to even think of greatness. It seems so arrogant. But eventually I got the poems selected. Don't think I stuck with the original list, however. There was some more hemming and some more hawing. Several changes were made.

Next, I took notes on each poem. Where did it first appear? Where did it go from there? I did this note-taking as I also had to write an introduction to the collection. This essay was supposed to trace the lives of the poems in chronological order. I delayed and delayed. And so many other things intervened, other writing projects that had deadlines. But finally a few weeks ago, I took charge of myself and sat down to do it. I decided I'd do one poem a night. But once I got underway I ended up doing 3 or 4 each night, so it was done rather quickly once I got started. The challenge was to make the essay comprehensive and interesting and, at the same time, manage not to sound like a obnoxious braggart. Then, of course, several rounds of revision.

Next came the Acknowledgments page and the Contents and assembling the entire chapbook into one file. I sent it off last week to the publisher, and she's let me know that she's already working on it and plans to have it for AWP.

I will have no involvement in the cover design as all covers are the same—gold card stock with a black border. Likewise, all titles are the same: Greatest Hits, followed by dates and the poet's name.

More details as the chapbook moves along.


  1. What fun! Congrats! You're a rock star!

  2. I have several of these chapbooks from the Pudding House Publications -- I think they are fun!

  3. Afterthought: Are your readers' favorites of your work, your favorites? I'm just wondering because I have been surprised by some of my poems my readers like best!

  4. Thanks! It's kind of cool to be invited to have a collection without having the hassle of sending a manuscript all over the country. I like all the poems I included--I wouldn't have included a public favorite if it weren't high on my own list. But there were a number of poems I would like to have included but didn't because of the limitation of 12 and because they hadn't been around long enough to become clearly a public favorite. The selections were most difficult with my new book. I wanted it equally represented, but that book has a few that I'd call personal favorites but they hadn't done a lot of traveling yet.

  5. A deserved invitation. Your fans will have a bit of fun guessing the selected dozen. I'm thinking Linguini and My Husband Discovers Poetry are easy money, but I'll have to think about the rest.


  6. David--
    You're off to a good start. Maybe I should offer a prize to the first person who correctly guesses all 12.


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