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Queens College Hosts Ambitious Virtual Three-Day Chapbook Festival on February 18, March 18 and April 15


-- Program Features Presentations by Poets, Including New York State Poet Laureate Alicia Ostriker, and Small Presses, and on Creating Chapbooks; a Virtual Book Fair and Digital Galleries --  

QUEENS, NY, February 17, 2021—Distinguished Professor Kimiko Hahn (English) is bringing chapbooks—small gems of poetry and book design—to Queens College. An award-winning poet, Hahn is also a writer and collector of chapbooks. Together with librarians and staff at Rosenthal Library, she has organized a virtual Chapbook Festival scheduled for three Thursdays: February 18, March 18, and April 15. Featuring new work, poets, scholars, students, and independent regional presses, the festival is free and open to the public, including activities appealing to both enthusiasts and people new to the genre. Interested people can register here​.   

Chapbooks are often very personal or experimental publications that have been beloved by many kinds of audiences from early modernity through the present. From stapled photocopies to hand-lettered presses to digital editions, their versatility continues to endear them to readers and bibliophiles.  

A highlight of the festival will be a keynote talk by Matvei Yankelevich, poet, translator, and executive director of Ugly Duckling Presse. In addition, Alicia Ostriker, New York State Poet Laureate, will read and show photographs from her new chapbook, Ideas of Order and Disorder, published by Ghostbird and created for this occasion. National Book Award–winning poet Cornelius Eady and his trio will perform his original songs, which have been published in chapbook form. Also planned are panels on such topics as designing chapbooks and starting a chapbook press, as well as readings by alumni of Queens College and the other campuses that belong to the CUNY Affiliation Group of MFA programs—Brooklyn, City, and Hunter Colleges. 

Besides scheduled events, QC is offering asynchronous programming on the festival website here​. It includes guides to making chapbooks, a virtual book fair, and digital galleries and archives. Prominent among those are more than 200 chapbooks that Hahn recently donated to Rosenthal Library’s Department of Special Collections and Archives, which adds significantly to the college’s Print History and Culture collections of rare books, zines, and artists’ books. The gift includes ten chapbooks that Hahn herself authored, such as Boxes With Respect, a work published by the Center for Book Arts that was printed on letterpress, embroidered, and bound by hand.    

"In an age when everything is never fast enough, the chapbook is a small anchor to the moment; it is a pause to read and relish," says Hahn. Rajiv Mohabir, a QC graduate who wrote his 2013 MFA thesis under Hahn’s direction, shares her love of the chapbook form. An Indo-Guyanese immigrant, an award-winning writer, and a professor at Emerson College in Boston, he has published several chapbooks in addition to two collections of poetry, a volume of translation, and a memoir. “They’re cool,” says Mohabir. “They can be really beautiful to hold, and they’re fun.” They also are adaptable to a range of ideas and themes, and these days may be published on unusual materials like cardstock; Mohabir published a trilingual chapbook on a scarf. In his view, “They can live in the world in a very different way. The artistic freedom is unbound—no pun intended.”  

This festival reprises an earlier incarnation held at the CUNY Graduate Center, also organized by Hahn, which had a five-year run and involved major literary organizations and chapbook publishers. Queens College’s festival is funded by Executive Vice Chancellor Jose Cruz's Office of Academic Affairs and Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library. Hahn’s fellow organizers include Chief Librarian and Associate Dean Kristin Hart, Digital Librarian Leila Walker, and Professor John Rice, representing the CUNY Affiliation Group. Annie Tummino, head of Special Collections and Archives, also assisted with festival planning.  

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