Thief Of The Interior Part 3: When I lay out a book, I’m making an early 1990s rock album. I don’t mean I’m growing my hair long, mumbling incoherently, and raging against the machine that pays me to rage, I mean I’m trying to make each poem connect directly with both the one that precedes it, and the one that follows. Often the final line or image from a poem is somehow echoed in the title, first line or image of the next poem.
I don’t write them that way. I don’t finish up a poem with “syphilis” and then write a poem about STDs. I find a poem that I wrote two years ago about a relationship that ends with the word “broken”, and follow it up with “The Fix”. It feels like the most honest way for me to create a manuscript. It feels truer than chronology, and tighter than sectioning a book off by themes, as I often get exhausted when an author has twenty pages of poems about the death of their dog, and then fifteen about sex, followed by twenty pages about 9/11. I’d rather read the heartbreaking poem about the dog, a 9/11 poem, a sex poem, and then another poem that includes the dog’s death. I am way more likely to go back and reread a poem that is echoed ten or more pages later than I am to get invested in a whole section about dead dogs. I realize this goes against my previous post about how brilliant Part 2 of Thief Of The Interior, and the work of Patricia Smith are, but those are two high caliber exceptions to a rule. For the most part, I hate themed collections. The Father is my least favorite Sharon Olds collection, even though I love her poems about family in Satan Says, The Gold Cell, and The Dead And The Living.
I acknowledge that arranging a book for my reading pleasure instead of traditional organizing methods means I am assembling the manuscript For Me. Making it easier for me to contextualize than a reader who might want all of my dead dog poems in the same space. I think, if we are honest, we always write and assemble our books for ourselves. We're just glad when we find that there others who appreciate how our brain chemistry functions.
The third section of Williams’s Thief In The Interior is a masterpiece of ‘90s albuming, with each final line /image feeding directly into the following poem.
In many ways, this is how a successful suite is written. It’s not the only way to write a suite, but I think it makes the process simpler. Writing five poems on a specific theme can be challenging. So why not write one poem on any topic you like. When the poem is complete, look at the last line. Is that a good starting point or inciting image for another poem. It can be thematically related, or it can have the tethering image/line be The Only Connection between them.
Write a five poem suite using the final lines and opening lines as connective threads. Bonus points if you can get the last line of the last poem to echo the first line of the first poem.
Examples from Williams’s Thief In The Interior Part 3:
Who could turn their backs to them and survive connects to I was told I could turn my back to them
We offer to pay. She says “No. Tell him.” connects to No, tell him--
to enter, turn the knob though the knob will burn connects to I go to turn the knob of a burning skull
under skin, over thought, in the tremble of my hand connects to Hands trembling, they wash their bodies
and from which the shade of “resist, don’t” can be found. Connects to “Resist, don’t”: the difference between what one thinks
An ongoing conversation between writers and the text that they're reading.