Getting the book in order (again)

I’ve been living with a draft of my book for a while now. The poems keep getting rewritten- line breaks changed, and changed back again. Poems have been removed and added ; the usual stuff.  I sent a version to my publisher a while ago, and he’s going to have a look in the autumn with a view to publishing in 2017.

In the meantime, I keep going back for a look, and when I do I find myself working again on poems I’d long since thought settled into their shape and sound. Even the shortest have been through countless drafts, and luckily, I managed to keep some of the first, since I’ve reverted to something close to an early version several times. I couldn’t resist adding a couple of newer poems to the latest file, mainly because they still give me a slight buzz of excitement, being not yet entirely familiar.

I’ve left out work that’s been published in good magazines- Magma (x 2 poems), The Morning Star, The North, The Interpreter’s House, Bare Fiction, Under The Radar and others – either because the poems don’t fit with the rest of the collection, or because I simply don’t love those poems enough.  I like and in some cases, love, (or will grow to love; time will tell) all the poems I’ve chosen, and I’m pretty sure they are strong enough, though my editor may offer reasons as to why one or two might be left out. I’m looking forward to reading his thoughts.

Today, although I am not at my day job and it is a beautiful day,
I’ve been at the computer a lot.


As well as being absorbed in re-drafting a new poem,  I’ve been looking at the order of the collection once more. Grouping poems by content is not as simple as it might be. Just because a poem has a bird in it,for example, should it sit with other ‘bird’ poems? I’ve decided not, as most if not all of my ‘bird’ poems are not about birds at all, but are poems with birds in them, birds that are usually passing through. Without going back and analyzing all the bird poems (maybe I should, and group them accordingly) I guess they are actually poems about change, transience, remembrance, loyalty, resilience etc.

There are so many possible ways of putting 60 odd poems together so that one leads into or echos or reflects something of the next. And of course my idea of a reflection may not be someone else’s. From where they are standing, the view may be completely different.

Then there is the option to break the book into sections. I’m not naturally inclined to do this, as I’m not sure what the benefit might be with this particular set of poems. I do have a sequence of some twelve poems about my time as a coronary care nurse, so that has its own title.

Where to place the sequence in the book is another question. At the heart, or middle of the book? I’ve been receiving some good feedback on these poems, and wanted to put them at the beginning. This didn’t ‘feel’ right ( although I can’t explain why at the moment) so I’ve compromised and am leading into the sequence with a short section of ten or so pieces, although this might change.

Putting the book in order, feels I imagine, a bit like designing a landscape garden with beds and ponds and hedges and sculptures.
Deciding on an order that will work is exciting and time consuming,
and, like most poets I imagine, I keep changing my mind.

However, as with every word and line break of the poems themselves, there will have to come a time when the printer puts a stop to experimentation and mutation: a time when the book will be held firmly in place by its cover.  Which reminds me, I need one of those too.


  1. Someone far more well-known and established as me, Roy, will have observed that the mark of the true author may be NOT the getting it down on paper, but editing, editing, editing and editing.
    No wonder when your poems are collected and published (such as The Sun Bathers which I’m marvelling at currently) bring readers such joy.
    Thanks very much.


  2. What a lovely thing to say. Thank you. Now you mention it, there are countless quotes from artists along the lines of ‘it’s not what you put in, it’s what you leave out’.


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