Creating a Poetry Manuscript

I love that Port Townsend has its very own castle -- and that they serve Blue Hawaiians --- a drink that seems oh so 1950's. The last five years or so I've sojourned in Port Townsend for the Writers Conference. Mostly, I am incognito, attending readings in the evening - visiting with poet friends who come to town. This year, I am teaching two classes and it is fun to feel more involved in the festivities. Yesterday was "Documenting the Lyric: How to Create a Book." It was my first time teaching this particular class, but I think it was helpful. I shared on-line resources such as Ordering the Storm edited by Susan Grimm, a book of essays on ordering poems which is now available on line. There is also the useful essay, "13 Ways of Looking at a Manuscript," by Jeffery Levine of Tupelo Press on his view of the manuscript.

What I wish I had shared more of was my own struggle to put a manuscript together. I'm often shy about talking of my own work in a workshop as if students will think I am doing self-promotion. Ironically, when I take workshops I want to hear my teacher's experience. I struggle with how to put books together which is why I wanted to share the information I've gleaned with others. If you know of good resources for creating a poetry manuscript, I'd love to hear about them. Another resource I find useful is Not Feathers Yet by Lola Haskins. She recommends using notecards, write the title of each poem on a separate card -- and perhaps the first line of the poem and the last line of the poem, too. This is a more compact version of the putting all the poems on the dining room floor to see what you have (also very good if you don't have cats who like new games.) My addition to this is to use colored note cards so you can have a visual for each section of your book. It's like creating a puzzle and the ordering of your book can become exciting rather than onerous. Do let me know your ideas as well!


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