I've been a fan of chapbooks, even before Pudding House published mine. I love their length--it's long enough to cover a theme, but not so long to be overwhelming. I love the fact that they can be made cheaply or in a gorgeous edition. I love the fact that anyone could make one. They appeal to my inner punk-do-it-yourself girl. In fact, if you can't afford presents this year, why not make some chapbooks of your own work?
Long ago, when I first went to graduate school, grad students had several old mimeograph machines that we could use. Those of you who are old enough might remember that purple fluid and that intoxicating smell. As I learned to operate it, and I thought of an older generation of students who had spread their revolution with machines like these (I was in grad school in the late 80's and early 90's), I thought, wow, now I can control the means of production. Little did I know what was waiting for us just around the corner, with cheaper computing and photocopying.
So, even if you're not sure that the people on your gift list will like a full length book of poems, why not give them a chapbook? That way you can still support the poetry economy.
Here are some of my more recent favorites:
Stealing Dust by Karen J. Weyant
For the readers on your list who love literature of the working class. In many ways, a wonderful elegy for the lost manufacturing infrastructure. (Finishing Line Press 2009)
Passage to America by Elisa Albo
Wonderful poems about the Cuban-American experience. "How to Make a Raft" is one of my favorite poems about immigration and the risks we take for freedom. (March Street Books 2006)
Another Circle of Delight by Rachel Dacus
A wide range of poems that made me think about my body in whole new ways. (Small Poetry Press 2007)
Oh Forbidden by Jill Alexander Essbaum
Untitled sonnets of longing and desire. Very sexy, very physical. (Pecan Grove Press 2005)
237 More Reasons to Have Sex by Denise Duhamel and Sandy McIntosh
The subject matter is clear from the title, but the whimsy is unexpected and delightful. (Otoliths 2009)
A Pilgrim's Guide to Chaos in the Heartland by Jessica Goodfellow
This is the book for the astronomers and mathematicians on your list. (Concrete Wolf 2006)
The Third Winter of War: Buchenwald by John Guzlowski
Guzlowski is my favorite poet exploring World War II and the concentration camp/displaced persons experience. (Finishing Line Press 2007)
Something to Read on the Plane by Richard Allen Taylor
Taylor does a wonderful job at capturing regular, every day life and helping us to remember why we should appreciate it. (Main Street Rag 2004)
Oyl by Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton
Fun with popular culture! (Pearl 2000)
Little Novels by Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton
For the English majors on your list--they'll enjoy these revisitations of classic works. (Pearl 2002)
Waiting for Pentecost by Nancy Craig Zarzar
Wonderful poems about all sorts of outsiders. (Main Street Rag 2007)
Dating the Invisible Man by Gwen Hart
Intriguing poems about relationships, with some pop culture references threading through. (The Ledge Press 2005)
Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum? by Nin Andrews
For all the teachers on your list, who will recognize all the notes in this collection. (Subito Press 2008)
Whistling Past the Graveyard by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
I still enjoy the poems in my chapbook, poems which explore how we live with the knowledge that all we love will be lost. If you want an autographed copy, I'd be happy to take your orders starting on December 1; my book only costs $8.95 if you order from me (which is cheaper than if you order from the publisher). I'll even throw in shipping! Unlike Amazon, I won't make you order $25 worth of books before I ship for free.
Tomorrow: Other gifts that could support the poetry economy