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Modjaji Books

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Melissa Butler’s removing launched to a full house at The Book Lounge

Melissa Butler’s removing is the first Modjaji Books chapbook and it was launched on the 7th July at The Book Lounge. (More about chapbooks later.) Gus Ferguson introduced Melissa’s work and read . Gus and Melissa read her poem Cited together. Melissa’s particular way of reading, a sort of incantatory style is wonderful to hear and does justice to her poems.

Once again I was filled with gratifed amazement at the numbers who came to a poetry event, and there were lots of poets in the audience, they included Nadine Botha, Tania van Schalkwyk, Liesl Jobson, Helen Moffett, Eduard Burle, Hugh Hodge, and many regulars, such as Leroy from Off the Wall in Obz. (Not to mention Gus).

Melissa is an accomplished poet and I’m delighted that Modjaji Books is the first to publish a small collection of her work. The book contains a range of poems, some of which are a kind of philosophical enquiry, while others are funny and some deeply moving and lines will resonate and stay with you long after you have put the book down.

Melissa lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but over the past five years or so, she has spent extended periods in South Africa. She is about to return to Pittsburgh, where she is a kindergarten teacher, after having spent a year living here and completing her MA in Creative Writing (poetry). She was lucky to have Stephen Watson as her supervisor.

More about chapbooks:
I wanted to start publishing chapbooks of poetry as a way of attempting to bring down the production costs of publishing poetry and as a way of publishing more collections of poetry. Chapbooks have a long history in many countries. They were sold in the streets and by hand. Frequently they were religious tracts or political propaganda. Allen Ginsberg is one of the people who resuscitated chapbooks more recently, and in particular chapbooks. There is an immediacy, a hand-made quality, vitality that I have always loved about chapbooks and the idea of them. Frequently they have been made by those self-publshing their own work, and as we all know it is not an easy matter to get a collection of poetry published by a commercial publisher. It is simply not viable for them to do this kind of niche publishing.

Melissa’s book is beautiful, Jacqui Stecher has designed the book exquisitely, with a simple, yet striking cover. The book is saddle-stitched (printer’s terminology for a kind of stapling) and the cover is not laminated. However, between Jacqui, Megadigital and myself, we sourced lovely paper for the cover, so that the inside cover feels silky and looks slightly earthy, and the 70gsm bulking bond paper makes the book,as do the pencil drawings by Jane Eppel.

I came away from the evening filled with warmth from the generosity of Mervyn, Verushka and the Book Lounger team, the generosity of Leopard’s Leap and the enjoyment of being with kindred spirits who all love poetry and from listening again and probably the last time, for a while, to Melissa’s voice as she reads her extraordinary work.

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Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    July 9th, 2010 @17:42 #
     
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    It was a very lovely evening and launch. I am simply loving Melissa's poems, which I had somehow not encountered before. They are deceptively simple and tranquil, with powerful undercurrents, and the construction is exquisite. These poems have good bone structure. And the chapbook (which is lovely, my favourite are the eggshell-speckledy inside covers) has the best yet hadeda verse (a series) in SA poetry, and I say this as a connoisseur and collector of hadeda poems.

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