What is a poem? I think it was Yeats that called a poem “the best words in the best order,” and that isn’t an inaccurate description, but I don’t think it captures all of what a poem is. Let me start with communication.
Communication is a transaction, an exchange between two people or entities, in which one (the Speaker/Writer/Communicator) gives the other (the Reader/Listener/Consumer) aset of ideas /a wireframe organization of a concept /a set of reasons/instructions for action. In many kinds of communication, for example speeches, reports, or advertisements, the kind of ideas transacted are generally factual/logical/brain-based in nature. In art, these ideas are emotional/heart-based. In short, Art is to Emotion as an Article is to Information. I think art should strive to transmit the emotion the author feels as efficiently as possible to the reader of that art.
In order to do this, multiple notation systems have been devised. Music is the most notable example that comes to mind, as it has the most rigid style, but grammar, as used self-consciously in writing, would be another example. Poetry has only a very loose set of rules and assumptions that allow it a sort of notational language, and this is complicated by the fact that when writing poetry, the author writes for a different medium: poetry is meant to be performed aloud. This makes the notation system even more important, but again, it’s hard to come up with a system that will be read mostly the same by most people.
What I’ve been trying to do since I began writing is develop a personal notation system, or what I think most would refer to as my “voice” as a poet/writer (I personally don’t like the word “poet,” as it sounds pretentious to me; I’m aware I should get over this).
However, there were some places that still needed improving from my draft manuscript: most notably, my prose in “Rip Tide of Memory” (now only “Rip Tide”) and “AMBER Alert.” I rewrote each to tighten their syntactic and idea rhythm, to make them move more lightly and gracefully.
The most notable difference in my series is the reordering of poems within it. I think that in my first draft, I spent so much time on getting my individual poems tight and polished that I threw them together somewhat haphazardly, using a loose thematic correspondence with the fake “Table of contents.” With the new order, I hope this has been fixed: the piece consists of six sections, each with three poems (A new one, “Everything stays the same,” makes the totals correct). Each section has a thematic/emotional/personal element that ties the sections together. They are ordered by the order in which I wrote the sestinas at the beginning of each section, which works out to make the series move from identity to memory to a feeling of universal justice, and from there to a discussion of death and (something like) love that culminates in an exploration of the nature of time and cosmology. The piece is bookended by the fake “Table of contents” (provided at the end as an ironic commentary on the rest of the text) and an “About the author” section. I think it works better this way, and I think the “About the author” at the beginning serves as a fair prelude poem to the piece.
I’m excited to be a writer like I haven’t been before.