Bookmaking: Organizing Your Content

Dear Poets,

Hello and thank you to all the new followers for taking an interest in this brainspace. Let’s travel back to a post from almost a month ago and talk about setting up a book from the ground up. I had some photos of my experience and talked a little about my epiphany but otherwise, there wasn’t much direction for you.

 

So let’s make things a little more practical.

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I started with a list. My poetry collection is a little over 100 poems now, but that’s not a true number. Most of them I would never use, many others are far from finished. Some of them are pretty close to being ready and others I have submitted before. In order to reign in that group I started with a list.

 

In this post I talk about making your poems visible with a master-sheet. Mine was done in excel, which was a breeze. I recommend having a line for the title, date and revised date (at least). If you are at the point where you are submitting these works, you might want to have those dates and journals listed so you can keep track.

List

 

Back to the book – I knew I wanted this to feel like a book, so it was important to have bump pages (blank pages that serve as space fillers, like in a novel at the start and the end).Suddenly the book that was 72 pages was actually 70. Keep this in mind, as you will not want a book that is cover to cover poems.

You will need:

A title page

Chapter heads

Blank pages inside to separate them

For me, I wanted all chapter heads on the right side, so some additional blank pages were needed for those.

 

Then I started making a key:

I numbered a piece of paper, designating blank pages, chapter heads and how many poems should go in each. It was really just guess work at that point.

I wanted 10 chapters and each chapter therefore had 5-6 poems. I was not strict in the first round since I knew I would lose my mind going in and messing with the pages. There was time for that later, during the layout.

I also decided I didn’t want poems to take 2 pages. It was too hard to manage them in the word layout. That would be up to you, depending on how complicated you wanted to project to be.

Then, I simply went poem by poem and put it on a page line (or not). I knew I wanted certain poems to face each other—evens on the Left, odds on the Right—and others I wanted to begin or end a chapter. That was about a meticulous as I got in planning. Otherwise things just landed where they felt right.

For me – The poem number as well as the title help define my work. In my list I have mostly numbers. I was able to better locate them that way. Poem numbers are important in my collection, though this might not be a factor for you. Maybe they are color coded or separated by theme; keep this in mind as it will add character and interest to the collection as a whole. We are not talking about just single pieces, but as a full representation of your work. That means there will be a bigger picture to consider.

I’ll be back soon to talk about Titles!

Keep Writing and start Booking!

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Poem 7 Edited

Fun With Forms

Form poems have been around as long as poetry, in fact poetry would have hardly been considered an art without adhering to strict rules and guidelines for meter and rhyme… as poems took on the structure of conversation, and each following generation pulled farther and farther from the preceding norm, forms became an identity a poem could showcase rather than a requirement.

With that said, there are hundreds of variations of forms that you could try with your work. I will get into these more thoroughly as I revise sonnets and villanelles from my own collection. For now I will address the issue with all forms as they pertain to the editing process.

Writing a form poem is easy: just follow the directions.
Writing a good form poem is hard: make the directions more meaningful with your content.
Editing a form poem is grueling: with the limitations of a form imposed on a poem, it can be hard to see where changes could occur and even more difficult to enact those changes without compromising the structure.

When you come across a poem that you feel needs revising but are worried about breaking the pattern you can follow my quick guide to revisions:

1. Do all of the words work?
Fixing iffy words is like repainting a house, it freshens everything up and makes the message more meaningful. This can happen at any stage of the poem and should always be a part of your editing…

2. What are you saying?
Form poems can be tricky because the poem might end before the profound truth is revealed. Remember that poems are more than witty compilations of words, and that even in a poem with structure the message must bring something new to light… or else why are you writing?

3. Should this be a form poem?
After a few read through’s with fresh eyes, it will be clear whether this poem is enhanced by the form or if the poem depends on the form to be considered a complete piece… if you find yourself leaning on the poem’s structure, your poem needs some serious remodeling…

For this particular piece, which has seen its fair share of editing in poetry classes during my undergrad, question three is my main concern. I can spruce up the words, I can add more umph, but there are still some areas that need work. For example, the mother-daughter lines in the first stanza are a little bland… I wonder if they are just filling in the form or of there is something more there.

TAKEAWAY

Forms are a fun way to challenge your poetry and expand your ability to control language. They can also be a sore spot in your collection if you don’t give them proper editing. With the three steps I have for editing poems, and maybe some of your own, you will be able to successfully tackle your more structured work without turning a blind eye to the form’s shortcomings. Who knows that Keats or Shakespeare might have written had they been allowed to open their structure. Who’s to say what Whitman or Pound or H.D. might have penned had they been forced to work with structure instead of poetic philosophies. As a Millennial writer you have the best of both words, so write and edit to the peak of your abilities, knowing that there are no walls around your work but the ones you create for yourself.

 

Poem 7 RevisedPoem 7 Original