|Chapbooks from Poets & Writers Magazine|
I’ve always loved chapbooks — the simple folded paper book with a staple binding. They’re typically no more than 40 pages, seem personal and feel ephemeral. They’ve been around since the invention of the printing press and provide a simple, elegant way to get information, songs, stories, and art published. Often, a poet’s first book is a chapbook.
In this age of rapidly changing publishing technology it’s interesting to see how chapbooks, zines and other small publications are evolving.
Nobrow, an independent graphic arts and comic publisher based in London, has started a graphic chapbook series, 17×23 (for the size in centimeters of the books), giving illustrators the opportunity to show case their work and explore new ideas in a concise format. They retail for $5.95, which is a great price for these intriguing graphic short stories.
I’ve read two and look forward to more.
Vacancy by Jen Lee is a dystopian story about the sometimes opposing needs for safety and companionship. Alone and forgotten in a forlorn backyard, a dog named Simon contemplates breaking free.
His chance comes when he partners up with a raccoon and a deer who take him into the woods. The woods are scary and it’s hard for Simon to figure out how to live and who to trust.
While I’m generally not a fan of dystopian outlooks, Lee’s style is bold and the action leaps through the graphic frames. It speaks not just to the fears of survival but a deep fear of isolation. Daytime is dim and night time has an eerie glow. You feel need for sustenance and companionship throughout the story.
I read a very thoughtful review of this story by Daniel Elkin at Comics Bulletin, which I urge you to read here. I also shared this story with a 13 year neighbor of mine who loves graphic novels and he hopes it’s the beginning of a series.
Lee studied at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. She freelances in a farmhouse in Idaho. You can read more about her here.
Lost Property, by Andy Poyiadgi, is almost an opposite kind of story. It’s about a postman who is able to correctly deliver hundreds of items every day, but easily loses his own possessions. One day, he gets a call from a lost property shop, saying they’d found a letter opener inscribed with his name.
When he arrives, he notices a toy ship in the window that looks like one he had when he was a child. As he looks around, he finds that the shop has every one of the objects he has lost in his life.
This becomes a slightly surreal and charming tale of the loss and retrieval of dreams and ideals. When faced with the ghosts of his past, he begins to reclaim and re-imagine his own identity.
Poyiadgi’s drawings are clean and clear, with a subtle palette. His layouts direct your focus from detail to panorama and back again. It’s visually intriguing and a bit of an homage to the beauty of the everyday objects of our lives, and how their presence – or absence – shape us.
Poyiadgi lives in London. He makes films by day and comics by night. He likes the collaborative nature of one and the solitary demands of the other. His comic Teapot Therapy was shortlisted for the Observer/Jonathan Cape/Comica Graphic Short Story Prize. You can find more out about him here.
You can read more about the 17×23 series hereon Hyperallergic in an article by Allison Meier, and you can see the Nobrow list of the series here.
You can read my review of the beautiful book Neurocomic by Hana Ros and Matteo Farinella, also published by Nobrow, here.
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