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Guest Post: Behind the (Chap)Book (Plus, A Giveaway!)

I rarely feature guest posts here on Practicing Writing, but I’m making an exception for Chloe Yelena Miller, a writer I met back in 2004 when we were both attending the Prague Summer Program. We’ve stayed in touch since then (we even collaborated on a successful panel proposal for a conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs not too long ago). Chloe was also kind enough to host me back when Quiet Americans and I went on our virtual book tour.

Now, Chloe’s poetry chapbook, Unrest, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. I’ve had the good fortune to read it; I wondered about the chapbook’s “backstory” or unifying structure, and so I’ve invited Chloe to address those questions here.

Chloe’s work is published or forthcoming in Alimentum, The Cortland Review, Narrative Magazine, Poet’s Market, and Storyscape Literary Journal, among others. Her poetry was a finalist for Narrative Magazine’s Poetry Prize and the Philip Levine Prize in Poetry. Chloe has an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College. She worked on Lumina and later on The Literary Review and Portal del Sol. She has participated in the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Vermont Studio Center residency and the A Room of Her Own Writers’ Retreat.

Chloe teaches writing online at Fairleigh Dickinson University, George Mason University and privately, and leads writing workshops at Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C. Contact her and read some of her work at www.chloeyelenamiller.blogspot.com.

Please welcome Chloe Yelena Miller.

These poems sit uneasily on the edge of comfort. The title Unrest is meant to identify the space that we enter where we – our thoughts and bodies – cannot entirely rest. That is to say, they address issues of loss and mourning, both private and public, in an effort to understand this experience. The final poem, “Haunt Me. Repeat,” ends:

I am responsible for the vastest of haunting.

I wish it were you.

Haunt me.

Writing, like other arts, has the possibility of retaining what is lost and allowing it to haunt us. Of course, that haunting is never what it would be if the lost person or memory returned. Haunting is only a shadow – a reminder that these people are lost forever.

For me, there are certain people, starting with a dear friend who passed when we were in middle school, who continue in my memory and inform my life. While my poems aren’t entirely memoir, my experiences are the first instinct for the poem. After editing and revising, the emotional truth remains, but not all of the factual details. In that sense, these poems are often closer to fiction than memoir.

A few of the poems, like “Breach: Rupture,” which responds to Hurricane Katrina, and both “Sunlight” and “The First,” which allude to 9/11, express personal and public responses to tragedies. I believe that we turn to intimate moments in large experiences in order to understand the individual, human experience.

Giveaway alert! Chloe has kindly offered to give a signed copy of Unrest to one of our commenters. Please let us know your thoughts about chapbooks: your favorites, your to-be-reads, your experience with chapbook contests and publishing. Comments will close next Thursday (October 25), and one lucky, randomly-selected winner will receive the autographed chapbook once it has been published (U.S. addresses only, please). Thank you, and good luck! UPDATE: Congratulations to lucky winner Amy, below. Amy, please contact Chloe to claim your prize!

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14 Responses »

  1. As a publisher of chapbooks I am excited any time I see someone taking the chance to publish one of these short but definitive books. I look forward to reading Chloe’s chapbook and will order copies for the chapbook reviews we sponsor on our website. Two of our reviewers will get a copy of the chapbook and then post their thoughts on the chapbook on our website. We hope to generate a conversation about the form and the content of chapbooks.

  2. Chapbook sounds like a great way to gain exposure to a new author or new genre! I look forward to reading Chloe’s work and would love an autographed copy!

  3. i’ve heard so much about this poet in previous years. is this her first chapbook? with just the brief snippet previewed here I am definitely interested in her work and will look into her chapbook?

  4. Congratulations to Chloe on the publication of her chapbook! It takes a great deal of work to create a chapbook; it takes a monumental effort to create a good chapbook. Based upon the description provided, I believe this will be the latter. I look forward to reading Unrest, particularly to hear the poet’s voice address issues of loss and mourning and the personal and public responses to tragedies. These are our most vulnerable, our most human moments. And out of them comes great beauty……

  5. I have only recently become aware of the chapbook phenomenon and its long and important literary history. It is wonderful to see a tradition continue, but with its own modern-day flair. I look forward to reading Chloe’s chapbook–kuddos to her for tackling an emotionally complex subject matter.

  6. I have a few chapbooks that I have found at used bookstores, including a prize I discovered for $1: Life & Death by Robert Creeley, *signed by the author* It’s exciting to check the poetry section in these shops and pay attention to the skinny books with no writing on the spines. You never know what you’ll find.

    I like the idea of a chapbook, the narrow focus, the intimate, handmade quality of some of these slim books. They seem more personal, for some reason.

  7. I love that the size of chapbooks makes them so accessible both to people who love poetry and those who are interested but may be intimidated by a lengthier volume.

    I also love this line in Chloe’s post: “These poems sit uneasily on the edge of comfort.”

  8. I had the great pleasure to read one of Chloe’s poems at a poetry reading we had hosted at the Giubbe Rosse in Florence, Italy. It combined the sweetness of mandelbrot cookies with the memories of her aunt. The poem has always remained with me.

    Looking forward to the chapbook release!

  9. I can’t wait to have Chloe’s chapbook in my back pocket or on my next bike ride. I love the small books of poetry that I can carry to read on my adventures in the city and at the shore. ”

  10. Thanks, all, for the comments. We’ll be back tomorrow to announce the winner!

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