"How do you catch the eye of a bored, underpaid, and probably inexperienced preliminary judge who's slogging through a heavy pile of manuscripts." Again, not so much answers, but these essays in Ordering the Storm ask good questions that, for me, I'm thinking about while collecting my work together.
Process. It seems, regardless of process. what it comes down is gate keeping. Meh, I've known worse gate keeping things. In any case, Jeff Gundy's essay is about his process from his first book, Inquiries, to his 1995 book, Flatlands:
"1. Write poems for two or three or five years, sometimes with some sense of a common theme or thread holding them together, sometimes not. These days I often write when I'm out of town, on my way to or from a reading or at a workshop, sometimes when I try out an assignment along with my students."
The first step seems easy enough, but this breaks and makes some people (a gate). To be a writer, a writer has to write.
For me, I guess writing consistently is easier when I analyze a poem than me writing a poem. The main reason why I stopped the whole question a day was because I was so far behind in writing.
But with that being stated, I wrote a lot of poems the last two years. Good poems? Good enough to get published? Who knows.
"2. Put all the poems in a big pile. OK, a middle-sized pile. I usually do this too soon, before I have quite enough of the right kind of poems to make a book that's good enough or coherent enough. But I'm impatient, and it's almost like having a new toy to play with."
Another gate. Patience. In every step. I'm the biggest enemy to my own writing, but I'm the only one I trust. So what to do then. Once, I wanted to burn everything I written, now I'm trying to motivate myself to compile a collection.
Note though this isn't the "not writing" type of patience. This is the "writing / editing" phase patience. Thinking about writing versus getting it on the page are two different things.
"3. Spend numerous hours, scattered over weeks or months or years, sifting through the poems, making piles, arranging and rearranging. Discover that there appears to be both too much and too little order in the poems: some seem mere echoes of each other, other have very little to do with the rest."
Patience is one thing. Time to discover is another. All the time in the world doesn't mean I'll discover something. It's the mindset of the search rather than stating answers. But the danger in the search is either looking too specific and overlooking something or not hard enough and then losing focus.
"4. Very gradually being to puzzle out some kind of plausible order [...]"
Here's the thing about order -- narrative? Strong poem first? How much needs to be published. It seems to Jeff Gundy, the most important part is connection:
"And yesterday, rooting around around in old files, I found two nearly forgotten poems that I published in magazines many years ago but never included in a book. They seemed to have uncanny resonances with some current poems, so I printed them out and am trying to figure out if they really belong."
From this, I'm thinking on how sacred publications are. Some? Many? All published poems in the book. We'll see.
"5. My internal ranking of them [poems] fluctuates wildly. But gradually a handful come to seem like anchors for the rest [...] So I rely on intuition, guesswork, obscure senses of possible sublimity."
I wonder how one creates a sense of ranking. Or rather, how did I come up with my rankings. Yes, by reading and comprehending. I think this number is the most important -- I think at this point, once the fluctuations becomes stable, it's a huge step to sending out.