Collecting poems

I’m STILL behind with my reading of poetry magazines. And then there’s the question of what to do with them when I have read them…

I have a growing collection of paper copies of poems. I store them in box files.

Last year’s house-to-bungalow move necessitated a massive cull of STUFF that I hadn’t so much as glanced at in years. Operation Study took me three days of hard graft, during which time I faithfully reappraised just about every single sheet of paper in the filing cabinet and heaven knows how many ring binders, lever arch and box files. The poetry ones fared much better than a teaching career’s-worth of policies and planning but I decided to keep only those poems I love, or like enough to go back to (at some point…).


Josephine Corcoran’s long-listed poem (Live Canon, 2017)

Since The Move, I’ve become firmer with myself about what I keep and what I give away. I no longer keep poetry magazines (I do keep contributor copies, though). Instead I pull out and box-file those poems that jump off the page and ‘grab’ me: the timely or current; those I wish I’d written; those that elicit a That’s it! or a fist pump; interesting forms, etc. In turn, I take some of these for discussion at Soundswrite and stanza meetings.

Recent ‘finds’ and why they’re ‘keepers’:

  • ‘Deer at Dusk’ by Cheryl Pearson (Under the Radar, issue 19): finding the extraordinary in the moment; lines I wish I’d written
  • ‘Quite a Fieldfare’ by James Richards (from The North, issue?): a That’s it! poem as I, too, had recently spotted (and had to google to identify) this uncommon garden visitor
  • ‘Present’ by Sue Dymoke (The North): timely
  • ‘Poets Give You Strange Answers’ by Jennifer Copley (The North): one of my favourite poets, I like pretty much every poem of hers

Poetry group ‘takeaways’:

  • ‘How to Parallel Park’ by James Davey (title poem of his V. Press pamphlet): masterly control of language; comic timing
  • ‘Throur’ by Brian McCabe (from Zero: Polygon, 2009): it transcends my maths phobia to mock education curriculum idiocy (don’t get me started…)
  • ‘For Those Who Walk Pavements’ by Pam Thompson (from Strange Fashion: Pindrop Press, 2018): I copied this one to share at Soundswrite; current, with local markers; no mere people-watching exercise, it’s thought-provoking

Online poems I’ve printed out (some, thanks to Carrie Etter’s NaPoWriMo prompts, and and comments from her Facebook group members):

  • ‘when you have forgotten Sunday: the love story’ by Gwendolyn Brooks ( Poetry Foundation site): its ‘when…when…then’ form; its hyphenated-phrase-as-nouns (more-than-compound nouns?)
  • ‘The End and the Beginning’ by Wislawa Szymborska (Poetry Foundation site): the cleaning up, tidying away and forgetting of war will always be current
  • ‘The Unspoken’ by Edwin Morgan: another ‘when…when…then’ love poem, it juxtaposes world events with the extraordinary power of touch
  • The first four lines of Emily Dickinson’s ‘Hope is the Thing with Feathers’: this one’s on the pinboard above my PC; it’s a mantra

If you have cut-out-and-keep poems, I’d love to hear about them.

9 thoughts on “Collecting poems

  1. Wow!!!!! What a powerful poem by Szymborska. I have added that one to my list of memorable poem.

    And let’s see … re your request: here’s my this cut & keep poem :

    To make a prairie (1755)
    Emily Dickinson, 1830 – 1886

    To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
    One clover, and a bee.
    And revery.
    The revery alone will do,
    If bees are few.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing your choice, Elly. I’m not familiar with this Emily Dickinson poem. She really harnesses the power of brevity, doesn’t she?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Jayne, why oh why do I not do this? I’m always getting frustrated because I can’t remember that Great Poem I read recently in some magazine or other, by Someone… UGH! Years ago I remember John McCullough telling us how he did the cut-out-and-keep thing, both for his own reference and for sharing with his students and I thought then what a great idea. Your post has chivvied me into DOING it. I just have no more space for all the magazines on my bookshelf. And this will give me a reason to read back through old issues. Thanks for the prompt 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Robin 🙂
      Before the move, I gave away two bin bags(!) full of poetry mags to a group of local writers who were exploring avenues for submission. At least they went to a good home.


  3. Pingback: What I’ve been reading this summer | Jayne Stanton POETRY

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