Sunday, May 11, 2008

Ordering poems using the mix-tape method

There is a great article in the May/June 2008 issue of Poets & Writers by Katrina Vandenberg about ordering a collection of poems using what she calls the mix-tape strategy. I was super excited to see this piece since that's exactly how I ordered my thesis. It worked really well for me (though having my twin sister Laura, who was not "in" my poems like I am, look at the work helped add some objectivity and distance that I just don't have when it comes to my own work was an indispensable part of the process for me). I can't recommend the article highly enough. Check it out.

And here's a poem by Vandenberg that is directly connected to the article, in fact:

Late night July
in Minnesota, with John
asleep on the glassed-in porch,

I listen (quietly)
to Bob Dylan on a cassette
you made from an album

I got rid of soon after
you died. Years later,
I regret giving up

your two moving boxes
of vinyl (which I loved)
in a stand against the futility

of saving outdated things.
Surely they were too awkward,
too easily broken,

too poorly mastered
for people who loved music
the way we did. But tonight

I’m in the mood for ghosts
like you, for being
younger, since you’re a

big girl, now I’m thirty-one
to your unchanging twenty-five.
In the mood for sounds

we hated: pop, scratch,
hiss, the occasional
skip. The curtains balloon;

I’ve got a beer; I’m struck
by guilt, watching you
from a place ten years away,

kneeling and cleaning each
with a velvet brush before
and after, tucking them in

their sleeves. Understand,
I was still moving then.
The boxes were heavy.

If I’d known I’d stop here
with a husband to help me
carry, and room—too late,

the college kids pick over
your black bones on Mass. Ave.,
we’ll meet again some day

on the avenue but still,
I want to hear it, the needle
hitting the end of a side

and playing silence
until the arm gives up,
pulls away.
(Katrina Vandenberg, from the Spring 2003 issue of The Greensboro Review)

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