The 2012 Chapbook Festival

by | Apr 14, 2012 | Events

The chapbook window display at the Graduate Center, CUNY.

Hello, Hello!

About two weeks ago, I attended the 2012 Chapbook Festival, which features small presses and chapbooks from across the country and even from Croatia! I also got to meet Sampson Starkweather. (This name could be a novel all on its own. Starkweather the Russian spy? Starkweather the struggling Midwest farmer? Starkweather the worldweary transgender prostitute?). In real life, and for the purposes of this article, he is Starkweather the co-coordinator of the Chapbook Festival, which is pretty awesome in and of itself. You may remember him from this infamous HTMLgiant photo.

What? You don’t normally bathe in chapbooks?

Okay, customary digression aside, what are chapbooks? For the beautifully lyrical definition, I would suggest you check out this interview between Adam Robinson and Sampson Starkwearther. For now, I will impose a huge disservice and say technically that chapbooks are really small collections of stories and poems and they’re often handmade into works of art.

And yes, a bit of chapbook porn spam for you, good sir!





Matchbook chapbooks! A match made in heaven. Oh, I kill myself with the punniness sometimes.





Overall, the festival really exceeded my expectations. My previous experiences with literary events occurred in high school, when students were obligated to attend through extra credit. The chapbook fair was different in that many of these people had voluntarily devoted a great portion of their lives to their art and this event showcased the products that had come out of it. Thus, the lunch reading that I attended was filled with speakers whose poems pounded their way through your heart or led your mind on a whimsical fantasy.

For me, the beauty of chapbooks lies in their ephemerality. These little gems won’t wait for you to finish the laundry or find time after redecorating your kitchen. Most of the people at the fair loved the fact that chapbooks were difficult to keep in print and limited by nature, disappearing, as one man noted, “into the fancies of literature.” The fact that each chapbook had been painstakingly crafted by a few people made them more valuable to their readers.

Chocolate, chapbooks, and free bookmarks. This lady was just too clever for my heart.

Mentioning the Chapbook Festival usually brings comparisons to the annual AWP Conference and Book Fair and seeing as “reiterate” used to be one of my favorite words in Model UN, I find no harm in adding my two cents! The AWP Conference draws thousands of people annually and is, in general, a big hullabaloo. It’s kind of like a literary Comic Con. The Chapbook Festival is a bit smaller, but I think everyone appreciated the size of it. These chapbooks are created by people who know there is no real economic profit to them; they create them simply because they love them. Likewise, the people who take the time to find these chapbooks and attend these fairs are the people who have the heart to appreciate them. Any complaints? No? I didn’t think so.

Until next time, my anonymous internet friends.

Jane Wang