For a long time I have wished to publish chapbooks: the chapbook has always appealed to me both for its archaism, and also for being, in general, smaller than a full-length book. I have loved its smaller-sized canvas, that constraint.
One thing that I have wondered about the chapbook was why it should now be a form almost exclusively limited to poetry. Sure, poetry often revels in the pre-digital form, accepts that to many it is an archaic pursuit, rather than simply an ancient one. Nonetheless, a chapbook is a form in which any small-canvas work might appear.
This was reinforced for me by the chapbooks curator Caroline B- instigated in the lead up to dOCUMENTA 13. These chapbooks included some poetry, including translation, but they also included visual work, fiction, critical essays, letters… They were a feast of ideas.
One day a friend had come over to make collages. We sat in my lounge room surrounded by cut-outs. For his canvas he took a piece of thin paper I had recently brought back with me from China. What he produced was a poem in four thin columns. And then he folded it, and folded it again. His poem was a pamphlet.
That pamphlet was something I circled back over in my mind. I realised that the simplicity of the pamphlet made it a form that existed almost from the start of printing technology. I realised that a single A3 sheet of paper could be a constraint, a canvas. I realised that no one was publishing pamphlets these days—but I could.
And somewhere amidst these thoughts I returned, as I often do, to Charles Dickens. In Little Dorrit bureaucracy’s frustrations are represented by the Circumlocutions Office. Yet for all the frustration, there was something in the phrase that struck me as beautiful. Locutions—the word echoed. What might a “circumlocution” be in a pamphlet? A tiny round-table of voices on a single subject. What might a “locution” be? A new idea set forth on a small scale. What might an “elocution” be? A creative work. Permutations suggested themselves—interlocutions (brief interviews); translocutions (translated works); contralocutions (the manifesto against); relocutions (the re-publication of old work: potentially very old).
So I decided to become a publisher of pamphlets. In this, I have already relied on the good will of writers I know to give me some words with which to begin. I will no doubt continue to prevail upon the kindness of thinkers and creators. Friends and, yes, strangers.
Secretary, Office of Locutions