Maintaining Order among Rioting Poems

Some of you will perhaps recall that I spent the summer writing fiction. While my back was turned, poetry ran amok, took to the streets demanding pay raises and family-leave benefits. So, I sat down this morning to file a new poem and a couple of revisions. And found chaos in the file box and on the Imac. Duplicates, poems gone AWOL, nasty early versions that really needed their hands and faces washed. Some unwelcome kinfolk who needed to be shown the door and booted through it. I know some twins are in there, almost identical, just with different names and haircuts.

After two hours at the keyboard, I have reformatted, sorted and/or retyped all the poems whose titles begin with A. Picture me with my head hanging and my fingers burning. Good thing we have only 26 letters. I don’t have any titles beginning with X and only one or two with Q, so there’s hope on my horizon. I may need more plain white paper. This is, my friends, a cautionary tale: get a system and maintain it. Here’s what I want:

  • a hard copy of each poem, filed by title, same format for each (2″ left margin, bold title, Didot font). Computers and backup systems do fail, and don’t even talk to me about the energy ogre we have been naively calling the cloud, as if it were a vast virtual storage shed that eats fairy dust instead of diesel and electricity.
  • a submissions list that shows whether a poem has been accepted, rejected or is still waiting for some overworked and overwrought editor to decide. For a long time I used Duotrope to store this info, and then for some damned reason I decided I wanted all of this information right in my own hands.
  • a notation in the upper right corner of each published poem telling me where and when it was published. No point in maintaining an online publication list if it’s not accurate.

If I had not ignored all of this work this summer and done a little at a time, I would not now be in the throes of this obsessive fall cleaning. Maybe waking up to snow along the Front Range of Colorado the first week of October did something catastrophic to my sense of timing. Mortality creeps up like a coyote and leaves me looking over my shoulder, thinking that I have to do this right now or leave my surviving dear ones to sort or throw out all these words I’ve amassed. Then again, maybe that’s just the thing to do.

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