Sunday, June 29, 2014

Day 43: Thoughts on the introduction of "Ordering the Storm"

This book was recommended to me when by Alan Soldofsky when I was ordering my collection in grad school.  I didn't get the book back then because I wanted to see for myself how I created a collection and how I felt about the process.

And yes, I did finish the collection for grad school.  But, I didn't trust the praise of my advisers.  Why?

I'm always a person who believes there will always be something to improve on, and all I heard from my advisers were praise about my work.  When I asked on what to improve on there was silence.  I took this as a bad sign.

A year later (after I graduated), my suspicion were affirmed.  One of my advisers never returned my mss or doesn't want to talk to me about it.  Furthermore, another one of my advisers asked me if I sent my collection out, and I said no.  The response was. "Well first collections are not good anyways."  And I took their actions and silence as the real critique and put my collection aside until I either would decided to quit writing or was in a position to come back and question myself as objectively as possible about a collection.

Unfortunately, the quitting option would sound so nice right now, but I see myself growing as a writer, so I feel I have nothing to lose by trying.  So here I am three years later reading this book recommended to me, a collection of essays, to help me out.

The "Introduction" by Susan Grimm tells about how this book came to formation through questioning.  When the local literary center in Cleveland opened up, Ms. Susan Grimm asked for workshop or panel ideas.  The idea of "how to put together a book of poems" came about.  This was the first idea from the author because of her own frustrations creating a collection.

What's important to note here are the list of questions that the author comes up with that the panel would address.  But these question are running through my mind for this second round:

  1. What should the first poem do? Establish voice, authority, a certain level of seriousness? What are the different ways to invite the reader in?
  2. What about the last poems?
  3. How long is too long (how many poems of poetry is too long)?
  4. In what ways can poems interlock?
  5. Are we committed to resolution as fiction is? Does the ordering have to do with a kind of narrative? Or are there other ordering principles--emotional change, change of approach, change of intensity (mounting?), change of style? Should we offer the best first like the Marriage Feast at Cana or save it for last like dessert? Myst there be a direction and change during the course of the book?
  6. If a poem is radically different in style, should it be taken out?
  7. Which is the more useful question--How do the poems fit together? or What is the whole trying to do?
  8. Should the poet think about the reader more when putting together a book than when writing the poem?  The reader's commitment will be longer.  Does he need more direction?  Should we imagine her picking it off the shelf?  Buying after a reading?  Has he seen isolated poems in anthologies or journals?
  9. How do people read? How do we want them to read?
  10. What about the title? If we use the title of a poem, how important should the poem be?

The "Introduction" ends with the author asking other poets what they though, and the book is a collection about their process, highs, pitfalls, and careers.

I'm rereading this book a second time, and I want to put down my thoughts on each essay.  My plan at the end of my thoughts on this book is to then work on my collection and come back, and, hopefully, answer these ten questions based on my collection.  If I cannot, then I won't send my collection out since it would seem that I and my collection are not ready yet.

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