Teaching Chapbooks

A Few Tips
by Kimiko Hahn

Chapbooks are perfect for classroom use: they are readily available online (paper, digital, and PDF formats); some are free or inexpensive; they are, by definition short; they include all genres; and, finally, this pamphlet-style text inspires students to make their own. In fact, I often ask students to make a chapbook anthology of their favorite poems or create one of their own work. Supplies are simple: paper and a stapler or rubber band. This is very much in keeping with the bourgeoning DIY culture where determined young people work outside mainstream culture by doing-it-yourself.

How to find a chapbook to teach and then how to create your own curriculum?

1. A shelf of chapbooks
Poets House library has an eye-opening array of chapbooks in their Digital Chapbook Archives. Take a look at the introductory remarks to become acquainted with this small and wonderfully diverse collection:

2. Context: background readings
The Poets House website is a productive place to start because their collection to date is from a particular era: The Mimeo Revolution. Included on this webpage are two substantive essays:

Both of these give the student background information that is general to the chapbook and specific to the times and culture, i.e., the early 1960s through the early 1980s when that ubiquitous office machine was in full gear and poetry was increasingly written in free verse.

3. Individual texts
Each Poets House chapbook has supplementary material:

This Chapbook | Author | Publisher | Audio/Video

Note: The Mimeo Revolution was an era bursting with counter-culture activities and values. In these chapbooks, the language and imagery of the times are exuberant! Some words and phrases are vulgarisms or epithets that may not be appropriate for certain ages or classrooms.

Other chapbooks: more places to find chapbooks include other pages on the CUNY Chapbook Festival website, the Queens College Chapbook Archive, and the New York Public Library.

4. DIY
See Matvei Yankelevich demonstrate how to make a chapbook in this video filmed at Ugly Duckling Presse for the CUNY Chapbook Festival. You can also find information on Poets & Writers DIY pages. Have fun!


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