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10 chapbooks to read now

Why you should be collecting these pocket-sized gems and the answer to your question, “What’s a chapbook?”

Chapbooks: They’re small books! Chaps usually hold 20 to 40 pages and give writers a chance to meditate on a single theme or send their work into the ether before creating a full-length book, so in them, you’ll often discover exceptional lesser-known writing talent. Though favored by poets, chapbooks can really hold anything, from thought-provoking nonfiction to fairy tales. You can find chaps at some of our favorite bookstores, like Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop and McNally Jackson Books, and here are some suggestions to start carrying around now.

Bonus: Indie publisher H_NGM_N Books even offers nearly 50 digital chapbooks on its website all for free.

And I Shall Again Be Virtuous by Natalie Eilbert (Big Lucks, $10)

In her second chapbook, poet, essayist and The Atlas Review editor Eilbert brings her visceral instincts and immense emotion to a subtly dystopian narrative about the patriarchy, trauma and oppression of silence.

Sample line: “The women used to laugh at the image / of a world without men.”

Buy And I Shall Again Be Virtuous

Toilet Bowl: Some Notes On Why I Write by Kate Zambreno (Guillotine, $6)

Known for her cult novel, Green Girl, and memoir-esque study the female experience, Heroines, here the brilliant Kate Zambreno grapples with her writing process, her rage and fears and the limitations of text.

Sample line: “I write as a way to scream.”

Buy Toilet Bowl

Flowers of Rad by Sampson Starkweather (Factory Hollow Press, $10)

This new chapbook presents a long poem sequence that weaves between childhood memories and metapoetic revelations, deftly balanced by the poet’s unabashed self-awareness.

Sample line: “I want to write a poem as long as California / like lying on a couch forever.”

Buy Flowers of Rad

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Linnaeus: The 26 Sexual Practices of Plants by Emily Skillings (No, Dear/Small Anchor, $8)

In her portrait of Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (yes, really), Skillings proves that even a life vastly removed from our own can be infinitely interesting and uncannily relatable.

Sample line: “A woman tells Linnaeus that he smells like moss.”

Buy Linnaeus

Girly by May-Lan Tan (Future Tense Books, $5)

Girly collects two new stories from Hong Kong-born, London-based writer Tan, who, in just over 30 pages, skillfully addresses the oppression of youth, the relationship between sisters and the inescapable longing to flee.

Sample line: “To exhale an emptiness the size of the Pacific.”

Buy Girly

Juliet (I) by Sarah Certa (H_NGM_N, free)

Taking a few notes from Shakespeare’s tragic love story, Certa’s new e-chapbook is part confession, part sexual journey, part feminist treatise. And it’s all knife-edge sharp, honest moments of pain pouring out of every line.

Sample line: “On the 21st day of spring I bake banana bread / and promise my mother I won’t kill myself.”

Download Juliet (I)

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Don Dreams and I Dream by Leah Umansky (Kattywompus Press, $12)

Don who? Don Draper! This Mad Men–inspired chap has been garnering fans all year: In it, Umansky weaves a thread between her life and the show, creating an entrancing set of poems about the greater human experience.

Sample line: “I know advertising is based on moments, but so is life.”

Buy Don Dreams

Phrasis by Wendy Xu (Black Cake, name-your-price download)

Okay, you can’t carry this one in your pocket, but sometimes you just need poems read to you. In her digital chapbook, Xu reads seven poems, and her elegantly meditative lines will seep into your brain and stick there.

Sample lines: “Placed my principles of natural order I open my mouth / My language slips through and through me again.”

Download Phrasis

24 Hours by Matthew Dickman (Poor Claudia, $10)

One of those writers who can’t seem to do any wrong, Dickman collects his charming poems alongside 24 drawings consisting of 24 lines that were each drawn at a different hour of the day.

Sample lines: “The light invented who I was supposed to be. / The light told me I was king.”

Buy 24 Hours

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Weekend Poems by Vanessa Jimenez Gabb (Dancing Girl Press, $7)

A Brooklyn-based writer and cofounder of Five Quarterly, Gabb transforms everyday moments, like going to the gym, into gritty poems that tilt the world-as-we-see-it on its axis.

Sample line: “I watch the Netflix / I can’t stop Netflix / It fucks the poetry out.”

Buy Weekend Poems

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