23 February 2013

weave your robes: considering the middle of your chapbook

The Our Lost Jungle Chapbook Challenge: The Robes
Thank you all for your patience with the delay in getting this task up. Those following on Facebook know that I haven't been feeling well, which hampered my ability to post when I meant to.

Today's task is the FINAL task looking at the organization of your chapbook before we begin, in the final week of February, to format and finish the work we've done thus far! This is also the last time we'll be looking closely at a chapbook ... but in a different way than usual. Let's get started!

the task

Today's, and this weekend's, task is for you to consider the mid-section of your chapbook, and consider how it serves as the "robes" to your chapbook's "royal garbs." So far we've discussed the importance of your "crown" (the beginning of your chapbook) and your "slippers" (the end). Of the three, the crown/first piece is probably the most important, because it is your reader's introduction to the rest of your body of work, and can capture or lose your readers in an instant! I would argue that the slipper/final piece is the third most important; once your readers get there, they are happier to follow you to the end. The robes/middle section of your chapbook, then, are of second-most importance, but also have the luxury of having much more flexibility in how you work to carry your reader through the remainder of your chapbook!

the robes

If you think about the familiar representations of royals, both in reality and fairy tales, we can really draw the distinct purpose of the three sections of a chapbook from the significance of royal wardrobe. The crown on a royal shows that he or she is ready to lead: it is a coronation piece, a piece that shows authority, and a signifier of importance and preparedness. Similarly, the first piece in a chapbook shows that you are ready to lead your reader into your work. It suggests order, in that you have considered how and why this particular piece serves as the opening number. The slipper, on the other hand, serves as a finishing touch on royal garments. In a fairy tale, when the damsel slips her foot into the silver or glass slipper, we know the end is near and that we will be satisfied. In your chapbook, the final piece similarly signifies that the end has come, and that it has come in a satisfying manner.

In fairy tales, the robes can take on several distinctive looks, feels, and purposes, but all are significant. In chapbooks, the middle section can be everything between the first and final piece, written and structured as a direct (or even indirect) route from "Once upon a time" to "happily ever after." For some, depending on how you've been organizing your chapbooks, the "middle section" you're concerned with may be a cummerbund. Let's look at how the middle can function in a few distinct purposes, with the understanding that there are more that could be, but aren't, discussed (for the sake of giving you freedom to understand the middle of your chapbook as your creative mind desires)!

ceremonial dress

Ceremonial dress robes are the most formal. With ceremonial dress, each accessory, cloth, piece, and so forth (even sometimes down to color) serves a distinct and defined purpose. For a chapbook, if you organize your middle section "ceremonially," each piece would serve a distinct purpose, making for a very strict and easily defined progression from beginning to end.

formal wear

In Western civilization, formal wear is what we are more accustomed to. Formal wear comes with particular "dress codes" that are still flexible, simply because there are different styles and functions to which they must become suited. For example, formal wear covers ceremonies and weddings, but also dances and parties. Prom garbs are considered formal wear "with flare": it must look appropriate, but also leave room for a spirited dance. For a chapbook, a "formal wear" organization means that you have a particular path in mind from the beginning to the end of your collection but you leave room for surprises. To use poetry as an example, it may mean using primarily free verse and surprising your reader with a form piece (a sonnet or villanelle or haiku, etc.) on occasion. In photography, you might have an entirely black and white collection onto to surprise your reader with occasional color pieces, or black and white pieces with a solitary color included.

the spider-spun silk robes

In fairy tales, there's often something magical, mystical, or otherwise alluring about the robes of the hero or heroine. They are spun from the silk of spiders. They have magical properties. They are dropped from trees by birds. Often folks might say there's a "lack of logic" in them, despite the fact that the magic is their logic: they leave room for surprise and wonder, and inevitably lead to the possibility of the happy ending. For your chapbook your middle section may be driven simply by your desire to express your artistic power and creativity. It will, inevitably, lead us from beginning to end, but with much more room for play, surprise, and wonder.

a hint: the cummerbund 

One hint for many of you is to consider "grounding" your chapbook with a centerpiece. In semi-formal wear, a cummerbund is used to provide a transition between the beginning (the shirt) and the end (the bottoms). In a chapbook, a piece located in the middle may serve as a type of bridge transitioning us from the work done at the beginning and the work that will bring us to the end. This will look different for many of you, if you even choose to do it. However, the point is that a distinct central piece may be helpful if there is a distinct shift in feel, theme, or approach that comes between your beginning and end; consider using a "cummerbund" piece to hold it together and avoid confusing (or losing) a reader with that shift!

a warning: the emperor's robes

One final warning for you when it comes to organizing your chapbook is to avoid weaving emperor's robes. We've focused so heavily on the beginning and end of a chapbook that I don't want to leave you with the impression that the middle doesn't matter. Remember that in the fairy tale the emperor wore his crown but was otherwise naked ... Don't let your chapbook inadvertently do the same thing to you! Carefully read over what's happening between the beginning and end, and maintain control over the look, feel, progression, and flow of your chapbook!

window shopping

We've already said that the task for this weekend is to consider how your middle-section functions in your chapbook. The secondary task is to not rely on your own abilities as a seamstress or tailor. Use this weekend to look at some of your favorite chapbooks or collections and consider how they have organized everything between the beginning and end of their works. Consider how you can play with what they've done and use it as a sort of template or pattern for what you hope to do with your work! As always, good luck, and have fun!

On Facebook there's a poll question asking about your favorite collection or chapbook; be sure to stop by and answer the question, and/or share your favorite collections in the comments below!


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