On Organizing a Reading or a Collection of Poems, by Anca Vlasopolos

For me, the organization of my poems whether in a collection or for a reading becomes of utmost importance. I take my cue from my predecessors—the British Romantic poets who saw the unity of the whole poetic work, and their successors, Baudelaire with Les Fleurs du mal and its chapters, as well as W. B. Yeats and his books, each answering and continuing the preceding work. I want to guide the reader along a thread that traces the journey of the poems so that they’re not like beads on a string, each equal and separate though tied together, but rather like moments along a walk taken in hyper-aware solitude.

Sometimes the journey follows the cycle of seasons; sometimes it offers a narrative of the inception, growth, cresting, and death of love; sometimes I reach for the cumulative effect, as when I read a series of poems about homeless people around the campus where I teach, in the inner city of Detroit, in the hope that the differences among the “homeless” begin to individualize them rather than treat them as a social phenomenon. I believe that the scatter-shot approach to reading that I’ve observed in so many readings tends to fatigue the audience instead of pulling them along.

At each reading and in each collection of poems I’ve written, I try to end with poems that lead to a sliver of transcendence, that much-despised word of postmodernity. If poetry does not draw us out of ourselves toward a region we have not hitherto explored and felt on our skins and psyches, there’s not much use for it, I opine.

Anca Vlasopolos has published a detective novel, a memoir, various short stories, over 200 poems, the poetry collection Penguins in a Warming World, and a nonfiction novel, The New Bedford Samurai. You can learn more about Anca at http://www.raggedsky.com/anca-vlasopolos.