Friday, May 14 • 4:15pm - 5:15pm
Pulling It All Together: From Poems to Publishable Book

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As poets with a total of 16 published poetry books between us, we are uniquely prepared to lead participants through the process of compiling a poetry chapbook or full-length collection, to submit to publishers or writing contests, or to self-publish. In this past year of quarantine and vibrant and intense political protests, many who have been writing poetry privately for years in a journal or notebook are now motivated to share their work with a wider audience. But where to begin, when it comes to assembling a coherent manuscript with a unified theme?

Organizing poems into chapbooks and books is an art, much like designing a garden or practicing origami or flower arranging. Each poem draws more --and different-- meaning based on its adjacency to other poems. T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Sylvia Plath, Tracy K. Smith, Layli Long Soldier, Kevin Young, and Natasha Trethewey all labored over the order of their poems in each collection, rearranging poems depending on how they read in juxtaposition. A poetry book can be organized in a number of ways, by place, time/era, events, people, dreams/nightmares, memory, or history. And this is by no means an exhaustive list.

A poet designing a book must resolve several questions in the manuscript process:
What should the dominant theme of the book be?
Which poem should come first? Which should come last?
How does the last line of each poem connect in some way to the first line of the one that follows it?
Does the poem designated as “last” work best at the end of the book, creating a sense of closure for the reader?
What possible titles are there for the chapbook?

Using examples from our recent publications, in this combination workshop and poetry reading, we will share our techniques for choosing poems for the collection overall, then deciding on first and last poems and title poems.

We’ll also show examples of refrain poems—like motifs in music that recur and sound different based on their placement in a volume. And we’ll suggest practical approaches to placing refrain poems throughout the collection.

Lastly, we will give practical guidance on where participants might submit their polished manuscripts, including small literary presses, chapbook contests, and non-vanity press self-publishing platforms.

This session is designed to be interactive, with full use of Zoom’s Q&A feature, and an opportunity for a free-flowing discussion among speakers and attendees at the end of our presentation.

Link to recording: https://salemstate.zoom.us/rec/play/ewpL5IDYWYZtp1Al59PpD3DEVYXJdJ_dTlbkXMlkoeT-K6vNsIOW8IvGYmcduvergzPtgcsVWNpaL5t7.GBXshk-5-g7Skd-W?continueMode=true

avatar for Lynne Viti

Lynne Viti

lecturer emerita, The Writing Program, Wellesley College
Lynne Viti,  Poet Laureate of Westwood, Massachusetts and a lecturer emerita at Wellesley College, is the author of The Walk to Cefalù (Cornerstone Press, 2022)  Dancing at Lake Montebello: Poems  (Apprentice House), and two poetry chapbooks: Baltimore Girls (2017) and The Glamorganshire... Read More →
avatar for Heather Bryant

Heather Bryant

Heather Corbally Bryant teaches in the Writing Program at Wellesley College; her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has won honorable mention in The Finishing Line Press Open Chapbook Competition. Her published works include: How Will the Heart Endure: Elizabeth Bowen... Read More →

Friday May 14, 2021 4:15pm - 5:15pm EDT