by Guy LeCharles Gonzalez
Free Verse Media, 2011
Along with the recent list of poets who have won awards, there also continues to be poets who publish their work through alternative venues. The most enduring of these means remains the chapbook, from Gary Soto's chapbook series to the collections published by Momotombo Press, the chapbook has been an integral part of Latino/a Letters.
For a deeper scholarly breakdown of chapbooks in the formation of contemporary US Letras, I highly recommend the YouTube recording of Juan Felipe Herrera's A Natural History of Chicano Literature. Herrera recounts major formative events in Chicano Lit and one consistent player in this timeline is the chapbook.
A new chapter in the history of the chapbook unfolds with the portable reader era. A few publishers, like Didi Menendez's GOSS 183, already publish their print and online publications alongside e-versions but few poets have jumped so directly into e-publishing like Guy LeCharles Gonzalez has.
Guy has a rich history in poetry with accomplishments with a National Poetry Slam Championship, representing the famed Nuyorican Poets Cafe; founding the Lil Bit Louder reading series at Bar13, know known as louderARTS; and co-author of Burning Down the House (Soft Skull Press, 2000). Guy was kind of enough to share his thoughts on why he released his latest collection of poetry and essays, Handmade Memories, solely in electronic format.
Why the E-Chapbook?
When I was active on the poetry scene back in the day, I published three chapbooks and loved the process of creating them by hand and having them with me to sell at readings. Unfortunately, a chapbook’s reach becomes very limited when you’re not actively performing, and I’ve been off the scene for several years now, so other than my blog, I don’t really have anything out there for people to read.
I initially got the idea to publish an ebook from Writer’s Digest’s Jane Friedman back in 2009, and with my recent job change, I decided to carve out some time for my own writing again (because writers write, right?), and the first thing on my list was publishing Handmade Memories. It was partly a way to clear the decks so I can focus on writing new work, but it was also an experiment to test the limitations of the ebook format.
I’ve always believed that poetry is, first and foremost, an oral form, so a static ebook is just the tip of the iceberg for digital formats. I’m really excited by things like kinetic typography and interactive apps that can include audio and video footage of readings/performances. But first things first; with so little contemporary poetry in ebook form, I figured why not jump right in with something simple?
• For more information about Handmade Memories, please visit www.loudpoet.com.
• For Guy's interview with Christina Katz, please visit www.christinakatz.com.