As poets, we are often compelled by particular memories, images, dreams, and other personal or social concerns that haunt us, and we may find ourselves returning to those again and again. This eight-week workshop will consider how such obsessions enter, shape the world of our writing—and offer us a sense of agency, even joy, as we grapple with these deeply compelling issues through the lens of poetry. One effective organizing principle for an emerging cycle of poems is the chapbook.
This workshop is a manuscript-centered course, meaning that we will orient our discussions, our readings, our in-class writing, and our workshop critiques around the way a selection of interrelated poems builds a coherent chapbook sequence. Toward that end, we will explore the history and uses of the chapbook since its inception in the late 16th century. We’ll look carefully at the elements underpinning a chapbook’s craft—the use of central thematic concerns; poetic form, lineation, space on the page; poem order and titling—as possible unifying features. And we’ll discuss the making of the book itself (table of contents, epigraphs, attributions, notes, acknowledgments, formatting, the use of images and documents, and more). We’ll also consider the publication process, particularly those contests and indie presses that welcome chapbook submissions.
While all are welcome to join this workshop, poets in the process of crafting a chapbook-length manuscript (ca. 18 – 30+ pages) will likely benefit most from our readings, writing exercises, and conversations. You should expect to read one full-length chapbook manuscript a week for 6 weeks, beginning in Week 2. Our meetings will occur every other week in order to give you ample time for our readings, and to study and reflect upon your peers’ manuscripts. You should plan to offer your colleagues substantive feedback on their work, and you too will receive focused comments on and insights into your own manuscript from the six of us gathering for these conversations. Our comments will be designed to support your writing, help you find a strong home for your work, and build a trustworthy community of readers you can rely on. Please join me for what I’m confident will be a meaningful and FUN creative process in the midst of our particularly tumultuous historical moment! I look forward to learning more about your aspirations for your poems!
Robin Davidson is the author of two poem chapbooks, Kneeling in the Dojo and City that Ripens on the Tree of the World, and the collection Luminous Other, awarded the Ashland Poetry Press’s 2012 Richard Snyder Memorial Publication Prize. Recipient of a Fulbright professorship at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland and an NEA translation fellowship, she is co-translator with Ewa Elżbieta Nowakowska of Ewa Lipska’s poems from the Polish—The New Century (Northwestern UP, 2009) and Dear Ms. Schubert (forthcoming from Princeton UP, December 2020). Davidson served as 2015-2017 Houston Poet Laureate under the leadership of Mayors Annise Parker and Sylvester Turner, and edited the citywide 2018 anthology, Houston’s Favorite Poems, modeled on Robert Pinsky’s national Favorite Poem Project. She was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters in 2019, and teaches literature and creative writing as professor emeritus of English for the University of Houston-Downtown.