A Look Inside The Poetry Society of America's Chapbook Series

By Harriet Staff

Over at wwword.com, Lucy Sisman has written a nice feature on the PSA's Chapbook Series, with a focus on Gabriele Wilson's gorgeous work. She is the sole designer of all the winning chapbooks in the contest.

Executive Director of the Society, Alice Quinn, has this to offer on the series itself:

“It’s a contest for emerging writers; we pick four poets a year—at least two of whom must live in New York, as requested by one of the founders—and none of whom have been published in book form before. There’s a modest fee to apply; we get around 600 or 700 manuscript submissions, which we have to edit down to about 40.”

Wilson, who designs not only the covers but also the insides of the chapbooks, offers the following on her design aesthetic:

“When thinking about the covers and the design I never want to interrupt anyone’s writing. If I have a style, it’s that. Any time I can’t come up with a solution I go back to the writing.

More recently,” she says, “we’d been creating the images for the covers from scratch. I explain the poetry to the artist or illustrator, and they see if they have anything in their collection that relates to the writing. Of course, they read the poems too.”

As for the books' innards, Wilson has this to say:

“I get the poets’ Word documents, and try to match what they wrote and how they wrote it, including the position of the words on the page.
Christopher Nelson wanted dots to divide his text, and they sort of match his cover, while Hossannah Asuncion (2010) wanted some of her poems to start lower down the page.”

The entire article, which delves further into Wilson's process, can be found here.

Originally Published: June 15th, 2011