Where should this poem go in my book?

Thinking Like an Editor: How to Order Your Poetry Manuscript
In my experience as a book editor, the biggest mystery to emerging and sometimes even established poets is how to effectively order a poetry manuscript. As a poet working on revising and re-revising my graduate thesis toward book publication, I didn’t have much idea either. Here’s why: Ordering a manuscript requires a different kind of thinking than line editing or revising your poems—a kind of thinking I hadn’t been taught. A poet I work with calls it “the helicopter view,” which I love. I think of ordering as a kind of three-dimensional thinking, as opposed to the two-dimensional thinking (like using tweezers under a microscope) necessary for line editing poems. Ordering requires seeing each poem from a distance, so that all its sides are visible; it also requires seeing the manuscript as a whole, so that you can decide how each poem and its parts might connect with others in a series.
The first thing I do when I edit a manuscript is to consider the inclusion and exclusion of poems, which is a critical part of ordering. It’s also perhaps the most difficult editing we perform, because it can mean letting go of emotional attachments. As poets we keep poems in our manuscripts for all kinds of reasons, but there are two inseparable criteria that should govern: The poem is “book strong” and fits the major or minor themes and subjects, helping to create a cohesive whole. We keep poems that don’t fit those criteria for several reasons. Sometimes we’re attached to a poem because it represents an important emotional moment, phase, or event. Other times we’re attached because it’s the title poem and “must” stay, even if the wise voice we so often ignore whispers that it’s not up to snuff. And still other times we’re attached to a poem because we think it’s critical to the collection’s narrative, themes, or chronology; it was published in a magazine; it’s our mother’s favorite; and so on.
Read the entire article by A. Ossmann here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *