|The abstract hope cannot be illustrated beyond the four letters it contains.|
|A few chapbooks in my collection by Wisconsin poets:
Jean Biegun, LaMoine MacLaughlin, and Stephen P. Mickey.
The noun chapbook was coined in the early Nineteenth Century by combining the words chapman and book. This small paperback book, oftentimes just a mere pamphlet, is likely as old as print itself.
Historically, it contained tales, ballads, or tracts sold by peddlers or merchants. Later, its content was narrowed to selections of short fiction or poems. The publication and its distribution fell out of favor.
Today, few prose writers create chapbooks.
Typically, chapbooks are independently published. Although, there are imprints, such as Black Lawrence Press, that publish the peripheral collections.
The selection of poems is generally tied to a theme or a poetic form. Yet, there are no hard rules or guidelines. Some include illustrations; others don’t. Length varies from as few as fifteen to as many as thirty. The process of creating a chapbook allows a poet to think about the organization and merit of her verse.
Most writers were first poets — composing frenzied lines of free verse to purge an emotion or, more favorably, deliberately playing with language to capture a moment of truth.
Left raw, these drafts remain the practice of an amateur. Left alone, they lack context and purpose. Individual poems fall short of significance.
Working on a chapbook makes way for clarity by forcing discovery of a reason for the practice of writing at all. Each poem must be examined for precision and clarity. Tied with a unifying thread, chapbooks brand a poet’s observations and construction of thought.
Chapbooks indulge the poet’s audacity, allowing her to print her name on the cover and own the lines inside. These, inexpensive stapled sheets of paper, are bids for attention to a writer.
“See me. Notice me. Give my work a look.”
The peddler, cloaked in the smug light of literary culture, whispers politely those desperate pleas.
Disclosure: My first chapbook, “A Stop Along the Way,” will be released in early 2017.
I agree with Tara that it is condescending to say someone “suffers from” situation such as depression, cancer, etc. Using the phrase emphasizes victim hood. Instead, it would be more accurate and useful to focus on how the person has drawn on inner strengths, matured their perspectives and learned to carry on with being alive.
There is however one case in which it is appropriate to use “suffers from.” That case is when we mean it in the properly derogatory sense of the term.
We may say that someone suffers from halitosis, or bad manners, or poor spelling, or having a foul mouth, or being too dumb to know they are dumb. Unlike in the cancer and depression examples, this person hasn’t met an extra challenge that occasioned them to become above-average in knowing how to be alive. Quite the opposite. They have refused to step up to the basic challenge levels that everyone needs to have mastered in order to spend time pleasantly around other human beings.
While we say someone suffers from a condition, it is in fact all of us around them who suffer. “He suffers from halitosis” really means, “He is wholly unaware of and untroubled by his halitosis, but the rest of us must suffer because of it.” Likewise, in the case of “She suffers from sociopathy,” she is definitely the only one in the scene who is not suffering from the sociopathy. Au contraire, she probably gets big kicks out of it. At everyone else’s expense, of course. Many people would agree that “Beavis and Butthead suffer from having grotesque laughter.” Again, it is not the boys who suffer from the mouth-breather-y, ceaseless, inane laughter, but us.
“Suffers from” is not appropriate where the person met with a challenge that they could not help, and where they had to gain above-average internal strength in order to survive the challenge. It is appropriate though where the challenges are remediable and where the person fails to meet the bare-minimun self-skills necessary for social interaction and for managing their life.
This noun with one, and only one, definition is a legitimate dictionary entry; its origin traceable to 1945. “A usually temporary condition in which a writer finds it impossible to precede with the writing of a novel, play or other work.”
Take comfort; it is usually temporary.
However, beware of Writer’s Block’s cousin: “Blank Page Syndrome.” These ails are apt to keep charlatans, ahem writing coaches, in business.
Today, I celebrate the word restore.
The verb restore is one to use in prose, poetry, and conversation. It is precise in its promise of righting wrongs. The practice of restoring requires faith in bringing back the authenticity of the original. Restoring provides the opportunity to make whole again.Restore’s intended use with an object has resonating applications for both concrete and abstract nouns.
Concretely, one can restore furniture, paintings, photographs, jewelry, buildings, vehicles, musical instruments, clothing, statues, or documents. This is not to be confused with replicating or replacing.
The action word restore is also one to practice in living.
And here, I refer to abstract objects — the ideas, the man made constructs:
This abstract restoration offers the best chance at sustaining our most authentic self. Listen to your genuine cravings for well being to restore what becomes lost in the busyness of living.
I blame well-meaning writing coaches for campaigning against the use of passive language. We are taught the following statements are weak.
So rather than clearly and objectively stating a condition, writers are supposed to replace the passive “has” with an active verb. Suffer, then, does the trick; it is dramatic. The word itself is pronounced with a softness, a weakness, a helplessness: [suhf-er]. It does not sound tough.
Recently, I read “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,” by Haruki Murakami and the following line gave me pause. I tossed it back and forth in my mind.
When we talk about having an illness “suffering is optional.”
The word I would use instead of suffer is one of graceful strength.
One can endure the pain, weather the storm, and carry on.
Mining seems a straightforward word, boring even, completely understood on its face.
If you would like to see some images of the immense impact of mining here is a quick google image search. This type of digging in and unearthing is paramount to success as a writer.
Everyone has seen the surface. Everyone has ideas.
Be a pioneer, burrow in, and draw out something of value. Pull it from the dirt. Examine its authenticity.
Take this resource to your crafting table and create.
Trigger words exist.
Words we now know are politically incorrect are real.
And this matters.
Words cannot be swallowed back.
Words tossed out casually or flippantly have consequences, mostly mild and in accumulations severe.