The Mixtape Method

I'm working on a new chapbook, tentatively entitled Building with the Smoke from the Chimney (you'll see why).  Shameless plug: If you'd like a CHEAP copy of either of my previous titles, mouse on over there to the right and pick you out one or two.

At some point in my life, someone told me that when you have enough poems for a book, but you weren't necessarily writing them as a sequence to go together, the best method for determining the order of the book is as follows:

1.  Pour yourself a glass of wine.
2.  Print up copies of all poems.
3.  Lay them out on the floor.
4.  Sit on the floor.
5.  Figure it out.

This is not incredibly unlike putting together a mixtape, I've decided, because what I then tend to consider are things like:

  • I want it to start strong, but not too strong.  Want to save the best one for maybe 3/4 of the way through.  Just like how track 7 is almost always a solid track.
  • Don't put too many "rocker" poems next to each other.  Similarly, don't put too many "ballady" poems next to each other.  Variety is the success of the order.  However...
  • Don't be afraid to create a mood for a few poems on end.  If they seem thematically or formally connected, they should rub against each other in the book.
I've never made a album of music, but I have made more mixtapes than I can remember.  Seems to me like a similar process.

So I'm wondering:  Would I be having the same considerations if I were putting together an album, a short story collection, a set list for a rock show, etc.?  How is a book of poems different in terms of what its sequence "says" about the poems--and their interconnectivity--than these other artistic media?

This particular collection poses problems.  I have really silly language-y poems next to really quiet lyrics next to twitpoems.  Stylistically all over the place.

So, artists of all stripes, what ordering mechanisms would you put in place while putting this thing together?


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