The Chapbook Challenge: a poetry playlist

I have seventy poems selected for my chapbook, all approved, edited, and ready to be finalized! They date within the last five years. It’s hard to look at my life in terms of title, theme, and symbolism, and not feel a little self-conscious. I have been exclaiming to myself, “Did I really write that?” and “Wow. I must have been going through some serious mood swings.” The dates and oscillations are profound to me. It’s odd, having to be critical of what are for me highly-emotional expressions. My poetry is confessional, and seeing my life stamped out in poem form, cumulatively reviewing with an editorial eye, has a third-person quality which makes my skin crawl.

I have reached the ordering process, the placement of each poem within the book. The best advice I’ve heard pertaining to this involves printing out every single poem, spreading them out on the floor, reviewing and ordering them, something akin to sequencing a mix-tape for a friend. What themes oppose each other? What titles merge well, making additional symbolism? Where is the low point of the collection? Where is the climax? On what emotional note do you start and end the work?

Within seventy poems, and the additions of some drawings, I have to craft an entire experience. I like that this has fallen on me to do this. It gives me a great sense of control, but also connects me to my potential reader. It forces me to re-experience my work (and by extension, myself) in a tactile, loose-but-stitched-together way.

I like this idea a lot — after all, what could be better than a ‘mix-tape’ of poetry?

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