Reviewed by Michael Murray
Sphinx is a brand new magazine on the market, its purpose “to celebrate, promote, evaluate” poetry in chapbook form; and to review only chapbook/pamphlet poetry, as well as self-published items.
Sphinx carries features on publishers, poets, and self publishers, on printers, pamphlet competitions, self-publishing tips, as well as, in this issue, reviews of no less than 15 poet’s pamphlets, as well as poems, an interview, an extract from a scholarly work, and 2 publisher profiles.
This is no light, amateur nor under resourced publication, but a magazine to be taken seriously on the market.
So, what is a chapbook, and how does it differ from a pamphlet?
A chapbook is usually, like Sphinx, an A5 sized publication. The Poetry Book Society stipulates it must be of no more than 32 pages. Sphinx weighs in at 42 pages, so, as you see, it a variable measure. “Chapbook”, it is explained, is mainly an American term, whilst the pamphlet a UK format, according to the Scottish Pamphlets website, of no fewer than 6, no more than 30 or so pages.
So, small format; slender page content.
Having said that, does my memory serve in recalling the early Christopher Murray Grieve starting off his Hugh MacDiarmid publishing career in Chapbook form? A very Scottish enterprise. So, as I said, variable.
The Poetry Book Society magazine has, in recent issues, started a review page for pamphlets.
This is very much an under-appreciated form, and Sphinx is right there at the right time.
Charles Johnson, included in Sphinx, on the intrinsic value of the chapbook format:
“a magazine submission… (may)… not…(be)… magazine material but has a cumulative or sequential effect. Then I suggest we ‘do’ them as a pamphlet.”
Sphinx relies on a pool of reviewers, but also, and this is an important feature, input from what it terms as ‘Common Readers’, who are more generalist in their interests, not specifically poetry, and ‘Young Readers’ who are under 21, and school-based. Their input is invaluable.
In presentation Sphinx is an A5 sized publication, with clear, bold black banner, content and illustrations, on a cream card cover, and with green flyleaf. Very clear, very tasteful. The content is laid out very professionally; all features are clearly separated from each other, their titles and subheadings clear, readable and enticing. The magazine has also the facility for including cartoons and illustrations: some wonderful woodcuts are in this issue. And I must admit to be totally charmed by the flying tigers.
Don’t know what I mean? Buy, and find out!
Sphinx Magazine is published by Happenstance Press and is available at £2.50 per issue or £7.50 for 3 issues from Sphinx, 21 Hatton Green, Glenrothes, Fife, Scotland. KY7 4SD or online at www.happenstancepress.com