The Poetry Cafe is a new online meeting space where poetry chapbooks are reviewed and listed for interested chapbook writers, readers, lovers and reviewers.
I was curious how and why this poetry chapbook site began, so I asked founder Risa Denenberg a few questions to find out. See my interview with Denenberg and a link to chapbook review contact form below.
HOPKINSON: Tell me a little bit about The Poetry Café.
DENENBERG: The Poetry Café is an online meeting space where poetry chapbooks are reviewed. It is located at: https://thepoetrycafe.online/. The goal of this project is to establish a comfortable, inviting home where interested poetry lovers can enter, feel welcomed, and read reviews of poetry chapbooks, with a cup of coffee or tea, or perhaps a glass of wine. Chapbooks tend to get overlooked in the poetry landscape, and so many of them deserve to be bought and read. The best motive I’ve found for writing book reviews is to encourage people to buy and read the books and to support the presses that publish them. For that reason, I don’t often review books that I don’t love. As curator of The Poetry Café, I will be accepting submissions of chapbooks and writing reviews. I don’t promise to review every chapbook I receive, but I will list all of them on the site. I do promise to read every chapbook sent my way. Soon, The Poetry Café will also accept submissions of poetry chapbook reviews from other poetry lovers.
HOPKINSON: How/why was The Poetry Café originally started?
DENENBERG: My first three books were chapbooks, offering me soft ingress into the world of publishing. My press, Headmistress Press, holds a chapbook contest every year, so I read, edit, and promote our chapbooks year-round. Many of the chapbooks we publish are first publications for their authors, and I so enjoy seeing other poets enter this world through Headmistress Press.
In the past year, I discovered that I love writing poetry reviews. When I published my first poetry book review for The Rumpus in June 2018, I had never previously published a book review, other than shout-outs on my blog or short reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. It turned out to be an invaluable experience for me, in which I learned what it means to read closely and critically, to really look at content, style, form and craft in a new way. To take in the ‘wholeness’ of a book, rather than paging through it. I also found that I connect more deeply with a book that I have reviewed. So the idea for creating the site for chapbook reviews arose out of my newfound pleasure in writing reviews for poetry chapbooks, since they often don’t get reviews. I thought this would be a good project for me after I retire next January. And then I read Lauren Davis’ chapbook, “Each Wild Thing’s Consent.” I was very moved by this work and I wrote a review of it. I sent it out to the review editors of three journals that solicit and publish chapbook reviews. When none of them responded, I set up The Poetry Café in March, in order to publish that review. You can read it here: https://thepoetrycafe.online/2019/03/19/each-wild-things-consent/
HOPKINSON: Who is your target reader audience?
DENENBERG: People who read poetry. Those who already have piles of poetry books and chapbooks by their bedsides and those who would buy more chapbooks if they knew something about them. People who have published chapbooks that they would like to have reviewed and those who would like to write reviews of poetry chapbooks. Anyone who comes to the Café and decides to stay awhile.
HOPKINSON: What type of work are you looking for?
DENENBERG: I want to say I’m open, but what I truly love is poetry that is edgy and intimate. I’m also moved by the contemplative and existential, the troubled and troubling. I prefer chapbooks that feel like a “whole” rather than a collection of disparate poems. I am definitely open to reviews from others, knowing that our tastes may differ and it will open the site to books I might not choose to review myself. For submitted reviews, I will be looking for good writing, good grammar, and close reading. Most importantly I want to learn something about the reviewer in their review, about how the reviewer is impacted by interacting with the book. I will be posting guidelines for submitting reviews very soon.
HOPKINSON: Who are some of your favorite chapbook publishers?
HOPKINSON: Where can folks send poetry books or inquiries for writing reviews?
DENENBERG: There is a contact page on the site for inquires. Please inquire first before sending books or reviews. Be sure to sign up to receive new postings in your own email.
HOPKINSON: If someone has a question, how can they contact you?
DENENBERG: The email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
FORMAT: digitally online
SUBMISSION FEE: None
FORMS: poetry chapbooks for reviews and poetry chapbook reviews