I’m nearing the end of another major revision.
I first laid out the poems and organized them by theme. What I found is that my poems fit pretty neatly into child, lover, mother poems, excepting two which I pulled out. The rest of them were already working thematically or could be reworked easily.
The child and mother poem sections had a good 10-13 poems each, but the lover one had nearly 30, so I decided to go through that section again and see if there was another way to divide it. I found that nearly half dealt with some sort of violence and the other half didn’t, so I could really just split that section in half.
Then I had to figure out how to begin the book. My po friend had made some suggestions for new beginning poems, and I started thinking about each of them and how they might help begin the narrative.
One, in particular, now titled “Song” but once called “Philomela,” really had all of the things I wanted the book to start with and is basically the title poem because it recounts the story of a hawk tearing out the tongue of a swallow (based on the myth of Philomela).
I chose “Song” to begin the book, but didn’t want to launch into lover poems just yet which it would be more closely linked to, so now I’m thinking about having “Song” be a prologue poem (or proem).
April Ossmann said, “As a reader, my expectation for a prologue is that it be one of the strongest and most representative poems in the collection, yet poets often choose a weak one, placing it in the most visible spot in the manuscript.” I’ve talked with my po friend, and we both think it’s a strong poem and could work, so I’m hoping I wouldn’t be doing exactly what she cautions against!
I wanted the child section to come next. It came first in the last manuscript order, but I’m completely re-ordering the whole section, and I just like it.
Next, I stuck the violent love poems since the child section is an easy transition to this one. Then the mother poems, which begin violent and end sweet, and then lastly, the sort of “sweet” love poems ending with being abandoned.
I still need to fine-tune the order, as well as read it through from beginning to end, to make sure it makes sense. So far, I’m pleased. I got the four sections I wanted, and thematically each of them is really tight. After I lock the order, I need to go back through and see if there are places where I can make the poems ring of each other more as well as do line edits to keep the poems really tight.
My next manuscript re-ordering should include reversing its current order, going from abandoned to mother to violence to child. Hopefully I won’t ever have to get there, but it’d be an interesting idea.