"Through much of this discussion of chapbooks vs. "real" books, it seems like when you think of chapbooks, you think of the worst examples of the format, whereas others think of their favorite chapbooks. A great chapbook is a special joy, because this small and ephemeral and obscure object contains something so wonderful. I like the brevity of a chapbook, which encourages me to read it again and again, and makes it easier for me to convince others to read it. (I also like huge encyclopedic works where I feel like there will always be new things for me to discover inside.)"
I thought this was a wonderful thing to say, and an experience I wish I had more than once or twice. I suppose there are several reasons I haven't, one of which is that I really have never been around a group of poets and a net of small institutions -- series of bookstores, reading series, group of editors, etc. or in the case of the Poetry Project or SUNY BFLO, a school or formal organization -- that were supportive of these types of efforts. So my major experience with micropress, other than music-related, is one of exclusion or one of DIY / self publishing.
A large amount of the music I listen to these days was "published" (often self-published) on CDR.
Most of the music I listen to is either on the radio (the CD player in my car is broken) or purchased by my husband or, yes, downloaded or provided by friends. When my husband started writing seriously, he stopped practicing / playing guitar. When I started trying to publish my work seriously, I stopped buying records and started buying journals, books, chapbooks, etc.
"Of course I've long had a dream of releasing an album on some obscure Italian cassette-only label. I haven't had a dream of having a perfect-bound book of poems published, although that's laregly because the poetry of mine that I would most want published and legitimized is not best suited for book form."
And this made me think of another thing, which is that the stamp of legitimacy of being edited (or included in a critical stance) confers seems somewhat dangerous or damaging to me.
I tend to think the work that's published is better somehow than the work that's not. If I have fallen out of love with a poem, I'll "throw it out there," but once someone reads it, I think it is a poem that is important to me again.
But then in a special way, the poems no one will publish are the ones I prefer. They must be so good no one gets it yet.
When someone asks me for "my best work" I can't give it to them, because I'm pretty sure that they mean "select from the poems that are published, that I may have read" and I think I like those only because they were published, and I like the unpublished ones, the drafts, etc. more. Very Stevens-esque, I suppose.