This week, I’m recommending two chapbooks. Chapbooks are shorter collections — think of them as smaller, more concentrated doses of literary goodness (espresso shots vs. large cups of coffee).
“An Elegy for Mathematics: Small Stories,” Anne Valente (Origami Zoo Press, 2013)
Why you’ll love it: These “small stories” are indeed small (the longest in the chapbook is seven pages), but the worlds that Valente plunges the reader into do not easily recede. This is partially due to the innovative forms that she uses — there’s a “Field Guide to Female Anatomy,” a time-stamped record of hummingbird visitation and the internal monologue of The Archivist (whose job is to catalog human lives). Mysterious, weird and beautiful, this is a book you’ll return to.
See for yourself: “Steven Larimer: 543 rubber bands bound across attorney-at-law documents, 1,267 boxes of Wheaties consumed, 38 eye infections ... 94 videotapes of sexual acts, all shot without a partners’ awareness or consent, 36 routine teeth cleanings, 4 cavities. Suicide attempts: two, and only one of those, unsuccessful.”
—from “The Archivist”
“Unscathed,” Jennifer Hambrick (NightBallet Press, 2013)
Why you’ll love it: Jennifer Hambrick’s debut chapbook is concerned with beginnings and the fleeting. Seasons blur into one another, Facebook suggests that we add as a friend someone no longer alive and neighbors catch glimpses of one another. Hambrick’s poems present crystalline, poignant images that highlight how temporary all experiences are — playing craps on the porch as a young girl with her father, a remembered snow day, the fading epitaphs on gravestones.
See for yourself: “Snow whites out school that day/ and I mother my dolls/ as Mom huddles at the kitchen counter/ nurturing a spread of books and papers/ scattered with words and ideas/ the way wet snowflakes/ splat outside on frozen ground.”
—from “Snow Cream”