Putting together a book of poems

I’ve been putting a poetry manuscript together in response to a submission request from a press asking for books written by women over fifty. I figure I’m well over fifty, so why not? The requirement is to compile a book of sixty to one hundred poems. I’ve been gathering my poems for the book during the last month or so. I’ve written a lot of poems – certainly more than the requirements of this submission, but the big question is: how many of them are good enough to put in a manuscript hoping to win a $1000 prize.

As of today, I think I’ve completed the gathering phase. The next step is to organize them. I really had no idea how to do that. I’ve submitted to chapbook competitions before but never a full-length book. So I went to my poetry book shelf and looked at how some of my favorite poets (Ellen Bass, Billy Collins, Maxine Kunitz, Dorianne Laux, Joseph Millar, etc.) do it. Some just number the sections, some use the title of one of the poems in the section as the title of the section, and some organize by the name of the book the poems originally appeared in. I decided to go with using a number followed by the name of one of the poems in the section. Of course all this depends on separating all the poems I’ve gathered into sections that make sense.  That’s next! I think that will be the hardest part.

Billy Collins

Billy Collins

The press also requested acknowledging publications that have previously published any of the poems in my book. I have made a draft list, but I’m sure I’ll need to add more. I’m glad that I have a document folder called contests and submittals. When a poem is accepted or rejected I make a note on the filename.

Last is the task of compiling the poems into a single document with one page per poem. This is no small deal. It’s a huge copy and past job. The book is due on November 30, and right now as I look at my poem list, I think I have plenty of time to compile the entire book and possibly have some fresh eyes take a look at it. I’ll let you know as I get closer to the due date.

During this exercise I’m still writing to prompts Robert Lee Brewer, Senior Content Editor, Writer’s Digest Community, posts every Wednesday just stay in practice. This week I also wrote to the Bananagram prompt that came with the Frost Place email announcements (Frost Place is requesting poetry chapbook submissions right now).

Bananagrams Writing Prompt. Write a poem using some of the words from our bananagrams game below. We can’t wait to see what you come up with. Send your response to frost@frostplace.org by Sunday, October 23rd and we’ll share our favorites in the next newsletter.


Why don’t you give it a try? Poetry is always such a good way to calm our nerves, and sometimes a way to divert from the reality of our daily lives.

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