Poetic Chapbook in the Digital Age – Online Exhibition I

How to publish a poem without funding? Which DIY formats are poets coming up with beyond traditional collections? Which possibilities do Facebook, Twitter and Instagram offer when it comes to circulating poetry and digital self-publishing?

On January 24th “Poetic Chapbook in the Digital age” showcased 38 of the printed and digital Innovations of the low- to no-budget spectrum of the literary pubishing scene at Lettrétage. Everything was offered, ranging from Chapbooks, meaning DIY poem collections, self-made copies and stapled leaflets to digital formats such as Instagram poems and freely circulating PDFs. The exhibition now goes online as curator Nina Medved continues her project, documenting her most eccentric findings on our Website/Blog.

Have you come up with interesting, creative ways for sharing your poetry – digital or analogue? Contributions to the Projectare continuously welcome from around the world, either via e-mail (ninamedved.nm@gmail.com) or postal (Vetrinjski dvor – Narodni dom, Nina Medved, Vetrinjska ulica 30, 2000 Maribor, Slovenia). We are looking forward to Nina coming back with a second exhibition at Lettrétage. So, throw on the screen printers, get the templates out of the drawer and start stappeling!

Why the Project?

Over the last couple of years and especially when travelling abroad as a poet, I came to realise how inventive writers are (the young ones at least) when it comes to different ways in which they distribute their poetry. I also came home every time to find myself with a full lap of leaflets, postcards, stickers, business cards, pins, booklets, CDs and other creations, which poets use as the messengers of their work; and as little gifts they hand out to new acquaintances they meet when touring. This way, I quickly understood, they manage to prolong our short encounter and ensure our friendship lasts longer than just those couple of days spent together somewhere in the middle of Berlin or on the Italian side of the Alps.

Another thing I noticed is that young poets tend to have growing problems publishing their work in the form of a physical book, at least when it comes to well respected publishing houses. Reasons for this are complex and linked to the specifics of each national literary field, financial aid offered by the state in question, size and specifics of its literary market etc.

Yet, publishing books is what poets should be doing, right? So, poets eager enough to share their work before publishing their first poetry collection or who just want to receive some feedback on their latest work sometimes decide to produce low-budget and mostly self-made booklets, which they can hand out to visitors of their literary readings or at other occasions.

What is a Chapbook?

These low-budget artistic booklets are similar to zines, but different because of their non-periodic nature. They’re called chapbooks and were developed in the 16th century as an alternative means for authors to distribute their poems and stories, since the cost of printing and binding a traditional book was extremely high. Chapbooks gained success and really grew popular in the 17th and 18th century. Today, it’s becoming harder and harder to gain classical publishing opportunities, while at the same time a strong physical and online presence of the author is key due to an increasing number of writers emerging every day. All this motivated me to create a project called Poetic Chapbook in the Digital Age.

Through an international open call supported by Lettrétage, the Slovenian Ministry of Culture and Slovenian Cultural Centre in Berlin, I gathered various forms of chapbooks and other innovative distributive ways for sharing poetry. We received a total of 38 applications from six countries! All of them were presented at a pop-up exhibition held at Lettrétage in Berlin on 24 January 2019.

Because we found them so charming, we’re presenting a small selection to give you a taste of the project, but mostly to inspire you to start sharing your work in unexpected and creative ways, which can turn out to be magnificently rewarding.

Nina Medved

How to contribute?

Do you distribute your poetry in the form of a leaflet, booklet, postcard, sticker or other DIY form? Or have you set up an online portfolio, poetic Instagram channel or found other ways for sharing your poetry? These creations represent different variations of poetic chapbooks that we would love to display at an exhibition, which will take place as soon as we gather more new material.

If you are applying with digital chapbooks, send them in any form available or links to where you published them together with your contact details to the following address: ninamedved.nm@gmail.com.

For analogue creations, please send them to Vetrinjski dvor – Narodni dom, Nina Medved, Vetrinjska ulica 30, 2000 Maribor, Slovenia, together with your contact details. Make sure you send as many copies as you can, so we can hand some of them out. We won’t be returning any of the materials.