For the last several months I've been finalizing the content and ordering of my second book of poems. The publisher has it now; it's out of my reach, on its own, is what it will be. I had a lot of help in this process from poet friends--Phil Deaver and Debra Kang Dean--and I appreciated that help. For while I had little trouble deciding which poems belonged in the collection, I was stumped at trying to decide on the order/arrangement of the poems.
Gregory Orr's essay "Four Temperaments and the Forms of Poetry" was a revelation for me. In it, he defines the four temperaments necessary for poets to possess in some degree: story, structure, music, and imagination. I've always felt that my strengths as a poet are structure and music. And, while it might risk being reductive to say so, story and imagination seem required in the arrangement of poems in a manuscript. The individual poems tell stories, but, ideally, the ordering/clustering of the poems in the book will at least suggest a story, or something that approaches story (a color? motif?). The more I write here, the more this idea seems to recede. But especially in collections that resist narrative continuity, manuscripts like mine that contain a predominance of lyric poems, some kind of coherence can be difficult to come by.
And maybe it's just easier to work with someone else's manuscript; maybe I've just been too close to these poems for the last ten years to be able to see how they're meant to play off of each other. That's where good editors like Phil and Debra come in.
The book, titled As If, is due out from Wind Publications in a couple of months.