I started to discuss this a bit on my blog, and then – well, another of things I was doing fell through, and I started to clear out some papers, so other things have come up –

one think about Jeffrey Levine’s / Tupelo Press’ advice is that it is very “of the moment” for grads of the mainstream MFA programs – you know, those academic writing programs which don’t seem to lead their students to pay too much attention to composition, form, style, history, criticism, pedagogy, or subject matter – something that would lead the students to create the types of super-unified book projects that are most of what is being published right now (i.e., lots of “a book of poems in and around Moby Dick” or “a book of poems I wrote in a few weeks at Yaddo last summer” and not very many “collections”)

the two ridiculous pieces of advice I got, and I was at Columbia, but during a time we were all on our own, was 1) lay out the poems in a big space (floor, dining room table, bed), relax, have a glass of wine, and put them together and 2) bookend the ms with the two best poems (as I generally try to do with magazine submissions)

other advice / things I have tried have been

- get someone else to do it

- tell a story / make an arc

- buldigsroman

- make it kind of like a THEMATIC crown or bob n’ wheel – you know, this one is about sledding and sailing, and this one is about sailing and swimming, and this one about swimming and marriage, so put them next to each other

- make it in sections according to some rubric

- group the poems like with like and make those the sections (my current newest book out, the poems are in “pairs”)

- keep the poems that are alike as far as possible from each other in the ms

in any case, looking at books by poets we’ve forgotten about right now has led me to say:

presses are as lazy as poets; mostly they’ve done a cost benefit analysis for length, paper cost, shipping and have a template that – with minor changes – they prefer to use. ex., one press prefers ms. under 72 pages, another, under 96, still another, over 150 – why? because they want something that falls evenly within the signatures, that fits their template, that looks good with their design, etc. No very many skeltonics published by U of Iowa Press when they had those really wide format books, right?


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