The Early Stages of Writing a Poetry Collection

If you’re following this blog, amidst the random posts on letter writing, kid lit, and other assorted things, you’ve seen a few posts about me working on a poetry collection. This is my first. I’ve written single poems for prompts, competitions, and personal ideas off and on for many years now, always thinking that one day I’d like to create a collection but never really sure what that would look like.

More than a year and a half ago I had an idea for a poem that slowly morphed into an idea for a themed collection based on the instrumental music of a single artist. I sat on the idea for quite a long time, thinking over possible ways I could approach a larger project like this, before I picked up the pen and began writing November of last year. (I also realized that a poem finished earlier in 2016 fit the collection, so wooo head start!)

But here’s the thing… while there are lots of wonderful blogs and vlogs walking writers through the process of novels, there isn’t so much material out there for poets writing a collection. I have articles saved with suggestions for submitting your work, organizing a collection (once the work is done), and promoting your book. Noooot so much the ‘here’s a blank page, now start your collection’ sort of references.

The beauty of poetry collections is that they can really be whatever the poet wants them to be. They can be entirely unthemed and simply a collection of the poet’s best work. They can be themed in any way the poet can imagine with the poems telling a story, commenting on a single idea, exploring an emotion… anything.

The problem is that I see plenty of poets sharing individual poems or mentioning that they are working on a collection, but never how they go about it. Never how they sit down and decide ‘I will write a collection’ followed by the process of how that collection comes about.

So I’m going at this kind of blind. Largely because I’ve never written a collection before, but partially because of not finding any real guidance either. It will be an adventure! And this is why I aim to write about the process. Hopefully the process will be a successful one (and if it isn’t you’ll learn what not to do) that helps someone else later.

Feel free to ask me questions!

Current Progress

  • The opening poem is complete. It’s the poem I’d already written before starting the collection… and then later figured out it fit perfectly.
  • I have 3 other poems complete with multiple more in various stages of writing.
    • It has been especially interesting in this project to start writing and see how things break off from the original way I approached it. Each of these poems are written to a particular song and I’ve already gotten into the thick of writing one poem… before realizing it no longer fit the song I had started with. It also split off from the original point I had to make. I’m curious to see if it will become two poems or if the first half was just the free writing I had to go through to get to the real deal.
  • I intend to also include letters (surprise! you aren’t surprised? the person who loves letters wants to include letters?) to separate sections in the collection. But since I don’t have quite enough written on the poetry side to be 100% certain what those letters need to say… This is the point where it would be very easy to sit back and say “I’ll write this when I know what I need to write.”
    • That, however, is not how writing gets done. I’m early enough on that for now I’m writing poems that fit the music… and we’ll see where those themes take me. (I am noticing themes taking shape already, but we’ll see how they develop.) As for letters, this week I wrote the first one. I intend to keep writing them as they come to mind, whether or not I know what I need them to be yet. If I’m lucky, some of the letters I write like this can be used or edited to fit what I need in the collection. If I’m not so lucky, well, at least I have been practicing writing these letters and it will hopefully be easier to write what I need.

 

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2 thoughts on “The Early Stages of Writing a Poetry Collection

  1. I’ve never sat down to write a collection, but I like the idea, and I’m looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts on the process as you go.

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