While some writers decide to write and release a full poetry collection for their debut release, others decide to start small & build their way up. If you aren’t comfortable with showing the world your deepest truths and vulnerabilities, if you don’t have the means to self publish, or if you simply don’t have the time to dedicate to the long process of writing and editing, have no fear because you still have a way to get published!
You can create a chapbook! If you don’t know what a chapbook is, it’s basically a small, soft covered booklet that typically contains 15-30 pages (no more than 40) of either poetry, ballads, nursery rhymes, folklore’s, or various other literature of these types. Chapbooks are generally theme based so when creating one, you would focus your poetry on a specific topic such as heartbreak or personal growth. Chapbooks are certainly a more affordable venture than self publishing a full collection. Depending on which outlet you use, they can cost anywhere between $2.00-$4.00 USD a copy to print. Selling prices are always up to the author so depending on your price point and how many you print, the costs could be covered quit easily. And if you are really creative and have crafty hands - you can MAKE your own chapbooks, giving your reader a more personalized edition of your work. So don’t feel bad about yourself or pressured to do anything you A) aren’t ready to do and B) can’t afford to do. The opportunities are endless when thoughts travel a little outside of the box!
Recently, Triber Edel Ahmed (@poeticsoulinme) contacted me & afforded me the opportunity to read her chapbook and let me tell you, it did not disappoint! This was my first time ever seeing a chapbook in person and not only was the content phenomenal but did I feel like It was a much more intimate experience with her words. Sometimes with full length poetry collections, we can get lost within the pages. Sometimes there is so much emotion poured into the pages that we need to take a little breather to regroup from the intensity. But this was the perfect amount of beautiful words, heartfelt experiences and raw emotion. Edel also allowed me the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her book Poems Cradled In the Horn & spoke on her decision to take the chapbook route.
Each poem is written so beautifully and with a certain amount of pain in it. What was your overall inspiration for this book? Was it the pain, was it for healing, was it to accomplish a goal of yours to write a book? Do you feel like you accomplished your goal or that you found a sense of peace now that the project is completed?
Thank you so much! I wanted to write my whole truth. No sugar coating or trying to make it pretty. I always knew that I wanted to publish my poems in a book; it has always been a goal of mine. So, I figured, why not start now? What’s holding me back from doing that? I definitely feel like I accomplished a huge goal of mine. As for feeling a sense of peace, I go through phases. Every time someone new contacts me about reading my book I’m terrified because of how personal I got in my pieces. Writing makes me vulnerable in a way that I never experienced before. Most people don’t usually show that side of them (let alone package it in a book and sell it to complete strangers) so it has been new and sometimes scary. The short answer is I don’t think I have found complete peace, but I have felt a sense of relief. Now that people who know me and are close to me have read it and told me that they think it is beautiful I’m like: “Ok, Edel, you got this.” All the support I have been getting has been incredible! I'm so thankful to everyone who bought my book and who are finding me on social media to tell me they enjoyed it. It's been so unreal to see people tagging me in pictures of it. Poems Cradled in the Horn made it all the way to Australia! I've literally never been anywhere near Australia but to know my words found a home there is something I am very humbled by.
Poems Cradled in the Horn is an interesting title. What does it mean and why did you decide on this as a title to your book?
One of the themes in this book is identity and I am a woman from Somalia. Somalia is also known as “the horn of Africa” so I wanted to somehow tie that into my title. And so, Poems Cradled in the Horn was born. I grew up around nurturing but very strong Somali women so I also wanted to reflect that in my title. The idea behind the title kind of came years before I was even thinking of putting together a book. I just always knew that my first book would have “Cradled in the Horn” in the title. I’m not sure when I came up with that concept but I just knew that was going to be the title years before this project began.
How did you come up with the cover art? Did someone help you with the concept or did you always know what you wanted the cover to look like? How did you find your illustrator?
I basically wanted to illustrate the title. This book has so many of my identities in it and for the cover, I just wanted it to be the physical identity that people see when I’m in front of them. I am a woman who wears the hijab, loves her country, and holds it close to her heart. And I think the illustrator Briana Arrington did such a wonderful job showing that.
After I wrote all the pieces and it was time for me to put the book together, I just knew this is what I wanted it to look like. Finding Briana was actually not as difficult as I thought it would be. I used social media and a good friend of mine Rooney Hassan, introduced me to her graphic designer, who then introduced me to Briana. It’s actually really amazing the amount of people you are connected to without even really knowing it.
Which of the poems in this collection was the hardest for you to write? Why?
Wow good question! There were actually two pieces that I almost didn’t include in this book altogether and Things I Wish I Knew At Twenty was one of them. It was hard to write because I actually never spoke about my experience to anyone so I knew my loved ones would be concerned. But they have been very careful about bringing it up. They know that if I wanted to talk about it more, I would. But that was definitely really hard to write and include.
Which poem in the collection are you most proud of yourself for not only writing but for sharing with other eyes to see?
I really like my poem Immigrant. It’s actually my favorite piece to perform because I feel like so many people relate to it. Especially in the political climate that we are currently in, with the immigrant ban and all that, it has been really fun to perform and share with others.
Why did you decide on creating a chapbook instead of writing an entire poetry collection? Do you have plans on writing and releasing a full collection?
I wanted to kind of introduce myself to the world. Give everyone a little taste of what I write about. I am not ready in this moment in my life to write a full collection but that is another goal that I hope to accomplish down the road.
Did you self publish this project? If so, describe the process you took. From poem selection, cover art, source you used to publish, and why you selected that source.
Yes I self-published. Well first I wrote and I edited. I actually had one of my best friends and also amazing writers, Alexis Adams, edit the entire collection. She was the only person who knew about my plans initially and I really appreciated her honesty and feedback throughout the writing process. Since I wanted to use this book as an introduction to me, I had to choose poems that spoke on my identity. And other themes that people could relate to like death, heartbreak, immigration, longing for a place to call your home etc. I chose to self-publish through Blurb after doing research on different websites. I just thought it was the best fit for me because of how easy it is to use. It also came recommended by a friend so I tried it out and really liked the process. They have great customer service and respond quickly to all of your inquiries. They really made the entire process on their end as smooth as possible.
What advice would you give someone interested in self publishing a poetry collection?
My advice to someone interested in self-publishing is write your truth, get a good editor, use your connections and most importantly social media to help you! There are so many talented people out there who can help you put together a great piece of work.
What do you wish someone told you before you started?
I wish someone told me that all the deadlines are in my head and to take my time and not rush the process. If it’s meant to be it will all fall into place and to not be so hard on yourself. I think we are our biggest critics. I certainly am, I’m much softer to my friends than I am to myself. So it was scary. But I am learning to be kinder so, my other advice is also to not be so hard on yourself. It’s a process and it takes time and patience.
What’s next for you? Are you going to release another chapbook, a poetry book, etc. What is a long term goal you have for yourself?
So the funny thing is I actually wrote a whole other book of poems. It was themed but I decided I wanted to wait to release it. I just feel like the pieces aren’t ready yet to be released as a collection. Currently I’m performing and getting invited to perform at different events. I actually just had a performance yesterday at a Somali youth conference. In the future I do hope to continue writing and performing and hopefully create a full-length book.
to check out Edel's poetry and connect with her, click the button below to follow her on Instagram!
if you are interested in reading Poems Cradled in the Horn, click the button below to purchase!
I want to thank Edel for not only allowing me the opportunity to read her book but for educating the Tribe and myself on a different route a writer can take to get published. So many of us look at other people in the community and feel pressured to keep up with what others are doing and we forget or disregard our own personal feelings or abilities trying to be like them. Thank you for sharing your journey and truth with us and I wish you nothing but success in the future!
love & light,