To continue the conversation from last time regarding putting together a poetry manuscript: I was reminded that who the reader is may have much to do with how he or she approaches a collection. A reader of poetry, one who bought my book or borrowed it from the library (or who had me thrust it upon them and he or she reluctantly opens it out of some sense of guilt or ancient loyalty), will likely enter and peruse willy-nilly. But a press editor or a book judge will likely start at the beginning. And as I don’t have an editor eagerly awaiting any output, I will need to create a manuscript that is likely to be read from the beginning, and in such a situation, the mind of the reader naturally seeks connectivity among the poems. I just found myself thinking recently, in my role as a judge of a book contest, “Hm, this just doesn’t hang together as a collection.” I was startled to find myself thinking that, in light of my own desire to have a collection that just exists because it’s poems I wrote in a certain period of time. What I think I meant in that case was that the poet, in the end, indulged herself too much and threw in what felt like all the poems she’d ever written. It felt like a collected works instead of a slice of a concentrated period of a mind working. In the end, as a collection it tried my patience and did itself a disservice by meandering and feeling jumbled and uneven after a while. So am I saying shorter is always better? Well, maybe you can get away with more variation if you leave the reader-judge/editor wanting more. Which brings me back to an earlier posting complaining that so many manuscript contests are specifying 60 pages or more. So many opportunities to weaken a collection as I stuff more poems in to meet the minimum! Seems pointless and cruel.