Review by Risa Denenberg
Sister poet Trish Hopkinson sent me a PDF of her very tiny chapbook (called a microchap), Reconstructed Happiness (Origami Poems Project, 2020). You know Trish from her Daily Digest posts that arrive in your inbox, chock-full of information vital to poets; and if you don’t, you should the join the other 16,000 people who do.
I want to tell you about Trish’s book, but first I have to give a shout-out to the Origami Poems Project, whose motto is: Helping the world, one Free microchap at a time!.
The project was established in 2009 and seeks to publish free e-versions of microchap books that you self-assemble, using origami technique. This is brilliant. Learn to fold! (Another motto of this group.) At the website you’ll find this explanation: A microchap presents poems on a single sheet of paper. The paper folds origami-style into palm-sized booklets containing 6 pages of text. Below is a view of the folded microchap printed on Landscape setting:
These little books are designed and published in PDF form, with full-color covers, and with folding directions included. Submissions are free through Submittable, and will re-open in September. They graciously accept donations to keep the “always free” spirit alive.
Back to Trish Hopkinson’s microchap, with the sheepish admission that I didn’t fold it correctly, but I loved it anyway. Reconstructed Happiness enfolds three poems. In “My Matter,” the word matter is bisected into its concrete meaning (as in, “anything that has mass and volume”) and its use in the abstract-concrete sense (bear with me here) of to be relevant or important, sometimes referred to as “material.” The poem reaches for the concept of “we are stardust,” in many forms: dust, pollen, “a dove’s blurred wing,” or dirt “caked beneath toenails.” It ends with string theory:
threads from my skin, unravels
Into streams of floating string.
The title poem is an “erasure in reverse of Ferlinghetti’s “I Am Waiting.”” It is an anaphora of “I am’s” that includes “I am my typewriter” (of course), along with “I am anarchy.”
The final poem in this series is “Offspring.” I read it as an ode, but it may be interpreted in a number of ways, as a good poem often can be. These lines drew me in,
My tendrils pull me taut
tether me heavy to the dirt
where I can’t pull free
from root or worm.
You can download Trish’s microchap (and many others) and try your hand at origami. If you decide to submit your work, read their instructions carefully first. Not every chapbook earns the right to be a microchap!
Trish Hopkinson is a poet, blogger, and advocate for the literary arts. You can find her online at SelfishPoet.com and provisionally in Utah, where she runs the regional poetry group Rock Canyon Poets and folds poems to fill Poemball machines for Provo Poetry. Her poetry has been published in several lit mags and journals, including Tinderbox, Glass Poetry Press, and The Penn Review; her third chapbook Footnote was published by Lithic Press in 2017, and her most recent e-chapbook Almost Famous was published by Yavanika Press in 2019. Hopkinson will happily answer to labels such as atheist, feminist, and empty nester; and enjoys traveling, live music, and craft beer.
Risa Denenberg is the curator at The Poetry Cafe.