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During the draft process I assembled thirty-five poems, twelve of which were haiku. It took me some time and careful consideration to find the story arc to tie the poems together into five distinct but related chapters. Once I read the poems aloud, the narrative began to emerge. If you’re a poet who is looking for a way to construct a narrative for your poetry collection, I suggest reading your work out loud.
My next decision was to include prose “bridges” — a Preface (a one-page explanation of the genesis of the book), a short prologue for each chapter (to guide the reader in their exploration of that chapter’s poems) and an Afterword (Author’s Notes). In the Afterword, I opted to describe in detail my thoughts about two of the book’s longer poems. I decided not to include notes on any more poems in order to give some space for my readers to develop their own interpretations.
As a debut self-published poet, I felt that I should begin the book by introducing myself to my readers, so that became Chapter 1 “Dear Reader, Hello” and includes poems about travel and fresh perspectives.
The Prologue for Chapter 2 “Reflections” reads in part, “This chapter touches on themes such as the arc of our lives (the transitions from childhood to adolescence to adulthood), inspiration, perspective, nature and the yearning for self-improvement.” It seemed appropriate to include two elegies here also; one for my mother and one for a friend.
The majority of my poems are optimistic even when dealing with challenging experiences. Chapter 3 “It’s Getting Dark in Here”—the midpoint of the book—gathers together poems that examine darker themes. The prologue begins, “Darkness. Despair. Self-doubt. Fear. Trouble. We’ve all had these feelings, to one degree or another. In this chapter I reflect on dark times that I’ve experienced personally.”
There is motion between the light and dark aspects of our lives. That epiphany became the seed for Chapter 4 “Motion” that considers “how we move around in the world (sometimes engaging and sometimes withdrawing); those fascinating pivot points in our lives where one thing or person or gesture sends us tumbling off in a different direction; landscapes of the places that shape us, even long after we leave them; and how we cope with the people we care about as they weave in and out of our lives.”
I wanted to end the book with a message of positivity and celebration. Chapter 5 “A Celebration of All Things” is organized into two parts. First, all the haiku appear together, one per page. I’m no typographer, but I think that each one floats nicely on its own page, ethereal, as is often the nature of a haiku. Each haiku reveres a loved one, a place I visited, an arrival or a departure. To complete the circle, the chapter ends with three poems that are not haiku. The word “celebration” in the chapter title refers to the way we honor people, places and experiences that elevate and inspire us. Fittingly, and by my choice, the last poem of this chapter and of the book is a love poem for my wife, Liz.
2 thoughts on “How I found the narrative to unify my book’s poems ~ guest post from Lee Hudspeth”
Deborah, thank you for sharing my poetry book with your audience with this Guest Post and a Spotlight. I’m honored.
I’m so glad you were able to fit me into your tour schedule. The world needs more poetry!
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