Q & A: Chapbook Publishers

Crane Giamo on Delete Press

Crane Giamo is the bookbinder, papermaker, and letterpress printer for Delete Press. He is the founder of Pocalypstic Editions and currently resides in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

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What is your own personal history with chapbooks? How did they first catch your interest?

3 events. I remember Jared Schickling showing me his collection of chapbooks and thinking "I love these, these are gritty." I remember having drinks with poet and publisher Brian Teare, looking through one of his handbound, letterpress printed books and thinking "this must have taken forever to build." I remember handling CJ Martin's Lo, Bittern, published by Michael Cross' Atticus Finch, and thinking "What the hell kind of material are these covers made out of?" But all that thinking was secondary and derivative. If a team of doctors could have have recorded the physiological changes in my body at each of these events they would have perceived an immediate increase in heart rate and blood pressure. My first reactions weren't intellectual, they were physical and animal.

What made you first decide to start publishing chapbooks?

Delete Press is an experiment I began with Jared Schickling (chief editor, co-founder) and Brad Vogler (webmaster general, emissary). I had just started learning how to letterpress print on a Vandercook SP 20 and I wanted to utilize the technology. Chapbooks seemed like the way to do it. It was a way for me to slow down in the creative process, to regain control of the technologies of poetic production, to build something that could be imperfect and flawed, to involve myself in the work of others and momentarily deny the cult of self, to produce tactile things and not only to consume, to fly beneath the radar of mass production. I was also disillusioned and bored with the MFA Poetry Industry Standard. And I began my imprint Pocalypstic Editions as a way to get my own work out there, which exists somewhere in the hinterland between poetry chapbook and artist book.

Could you talk a little bit about your own process of making and publishing chapbooks?

For the last few years the work built by Delete Press has been completely letterpress printed and handbound. With our last book (Going Blooming Falling Blooming by Brenda Iijima) we have begun incorporating handmade paper. Jared Schickling usually fires the opening salvo by editing a text with an author, then designs digitally, and finally sends it off to me. I react off of what Jared has sent, following his lead and also improvising along the way, tracing the constraints outlined by the design and experimenting in the bed of the press with different printing practices, altering what I feel is necessary to alter. So the work that is published is prefabricated and emergent. The production process moves from the digital back into the analogue, and I love this technological reversal, how the digital folds into the analogue.

What is unique about the chapbook form, or why chapbooks and not book-books?

I'm not sure about the chapbook form in general, but I feel that what makes Delete Press unique and allied with other presses is that, in terms of content, the poetry we are electrified by is active, attentive to the force of language, and I'd like to think politically progressive; in terms of form, our sensitivity to the materiality of the book as a physical object existing in the world. I like poetry injections in small doses. I like how certain chapbooks feel in my hands. Books circulated by corporate publishing houses are so slick and aseptic. And that's okay. I own those too. But if my apartment ever goes up in flames, the books I'm going after are those that have been handmade with an expenditure of labor that far exceeds the exchange value, the ones that can't be replaced.

Do you have a recent favorite chapbook from another press?

Everything that is released by
Aaron Cohick's New Light Press
Michael Cross' Compline Books
Dawn Pendergast's Little Red Leaves
Kyle Schlesinger's Cunieform Books
CJ Martin and Further Other Book Works
Brian Teare's Albion Books

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