What is a ‘chapbook’? Why does he do it? Imaad Majeed interviewed.

Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 10.03.24 AMThis is a copy of a Chapbook stamped by the Jaffna Library. This is where you can take a look at what’s in it.

Gaya: What is a chapbook?

Imaad: A chapbook is a publication that consists of less than 40 pages. They used to be sold by peddlers known as chapmen in the Early Modern period in England. The word “chap” comes from the Old English for trade. There are 200 copies in print distributed organically, 6 copies to each contributor and the rest to two coffee shops, Charcoal Gallery and Hansa both who have shown interest in promoting the arts.

Gaya: How did you arrive at the idea of publishing the chapbook?

Imaad: I have been involved with the Poetry P’lau since 2011, and have watched as it grew as a community, picking up momentum, gaining hype and then settling down into a gathering of writers who genuinely cared about their art. I felt a need for a physical manifestation of the experience, one that would be accessible to those who cannot make it to our meetings. Poetry is not a genre that sells, and, so, local publishers are not keen on such efforts.

Then there is the vanity press that asks the writer to pay to publish. I have no interest in patronizing any commercialization of expression. The digital platform is available to anyone with a blog, and it is one avenue through which a lot of young poets in Sri Lanka get exposure and communicate with each other. In fact, a lot of the poets I know are people I met after following their blogs through Kottu.org.

Gaya: Tell me a bit about Annasi and Kadalagotu …

Imaad: The name Annasi & Kadalagotu was lent by Capt Elmo Jayawardena. He is an author and a humanitarian at heart. His concept was to make poetry as accessible as street food. I feel that, by distributing the chapbook for free and in person, marketed viva voce, I have accomplished this. The layout was designed by Hanim Abdul Cader, a close friend who has supported my creative efforts from the start. The visual elements on the website are animated .gif’s created by Maneka Jayathilaka, a talented designer who also plays with images.

Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 8.40.12 AMI would like to continue Annasi & Kadalagotu as a small-press publishing house. I intend to take on the role of curator, choosing projects that I feel worthwhile and working with authors who are genuine in their expression and not looking for their five verses of fame. I do not intend to make profit from this venture. I hope that those interested in keeping the words alive will contribute in whatever way they can to help in our efforts. I do not intend to make use of people’s services and not compensate them for their efforts, and, so, there are needs for funding to get the words from the writer onto print and into the hands of the reader. The next step is securing donors and benefactors to stabilize the series of chapbooks that I intend to release.

To be clear, Annasi & Kadalagotu is a separate entity from Poetry P’lau. Annasi & Kadalagotu will be registered as a company under my name, in order to be able to ensure the intellectual property of the respective authors are reserved through copyrights etc. Poetry P’lau remains a community organization that has no commercial affiliations with anyone, not A&K nor Hansa Coffee.

Gaya: Where are you now and what are you upto? How was India? ( Imaad was at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai)

Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 8.39.33 AMImaad: I am working as a journalist and sub-editor at The Sunday Leader in Ratmalana. I focus mostly on the arts and curate content for the arts section of the newspaper.

India was a test. Chennai pushed me over the edge, and I landed back in Sri Lanka with so much to be thankful for in Colombo. I realized that the closeness and interconnectedness of Colombo can be utilized to catalyze something greater, and I could not wait to get back and put all my energy into picking up the momentum at the Poetry P’lau.

I am grateful to the organizers and regulars for the time and energy they invest in keeping our words alive. It really is a community, and I feel right at home when I’m a part of it.

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