Chapbook Digitization Project Launches with Kathleen Fraser’s Change of Address
Poets House unveils a new digital collections project! Visitors to our website can now browse rare chapbooks from the Mimeo Revolution—a hotbed of poetry publishing from the 1960s to the 1980s—complete with high-quality digital scans of each page that allow a close look at illustrations and inscriptions; essential context about the chapbooks and their authors; and relevant multimedia selections. Drawing on the Poets House library, which has one of the largest poetry chapbook collections in the country, the project preserves chapbooks that are important to the history of contemporary poetry and makes these special collections materials more available to the general public.
The Mimeo Revolution is the focus of this project, as a period when new, accessible publishing technologies like mimeograph machines enabled poets and their friends to generate an explosion of new poetry magazines and books. The chapbook became particularly popular in this DIY era thanks to its smaller, more easily reproducible format. The project explores not only the chapbooks and their authors, but also the individuals who ran the presses and the poetry communities they helped create: from Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Books, which published many Beat poets for the first time, to Dudley Randall’s Broadside Press, which published the leading black poets of postwar America.
We begin the project with the very first poetry collection published by acclaimed poet Kathleen Fraser, a leading figure in American poetry and a guiding force of feminist avant-garde poetics for decades. Her chapbook Change of Address & Other Poems catches her at the very beginning of her highly successful career, which would morph from New York School–influenced poetry to work inspired by female Modernists like H.D. and Mina Loy. In 1983, Fraser would go on to found feminist poetics journal HOW(ever), focusing on innovative writing by women poets.
The digitized scan of Change of Address shows off the visual beauty of the chapbook, which features sepia-tinted text and Victorian engravings. Change of Address was released by Kayak, a small press run and art-directed by writer, actor, and artist George Hitchcock. Hitchcock published kayak magazine as well as books by a wide range of poets, including Philip Levine, W. S. Merwin, Charles Simic, James Tate, Nancy Willard, and Jay Wright.
Visitors to the chapbook site can also listen to Fraser read poems from the chapbook. Select pages of the chapbook are synced to audio recordings of the poems, all pulled from a reading Fraser gave not long after the publication of the collection at the Poetry Center in San Francisco. A full-length recording of that reading with Fraser’s remarks about the poems is also available, along with a video of a 2012 reading in which she discussed the small-press poetry scene of the Bay Area.
We will be posting new chapbooks with related materials each month. In the meantime, please explore Chapbooks of the Mimeo Revolution!