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From the Mslexia Workshops Collection
Putting a Pamphlet Together
Devised by CLARE POLLARD
Putting together a pamphlet is as much a creative act as writing a poem. It requires time and craft, and there are many elements to think about. For the poetry pamphlet competition you’ll be putting together 20-24 pages of poetry, so your first act should be to get out your pile of poems and find a space where you can lay them all out on the floor. Click here for Stage One: Choosing the Poems.
STAGE TWO: ORDERING
What kind of rhythm should your pamphlet have? What journey are you going to take the reader on? A pamphlet may have a natural narrative – chronological, geographical or emotional. Plath’s original ordering of Ariel famously meant that, for all the darkness in between, it began with the word ‘love’ and ended with the word ‘spring’.
A decision has to be made as to whether to group similar poems in a sequence or section (say, sonnets or poems about birds), or to space them throughout the pamphlet. I’ve done both – clustering odes in Look, Clare! Look!; spreading out ballads in Changeling. Philip Larkin famously preferred the latter, saying he treated collections: "like a music-hall bill: you know, contrast, difference in length, the comic, the Irish tenor, bring on the girls."
It is important to think about poems in key positions. The first is vital – it needs to welcome the reader and grab their attention, and should be one of your best. The final couple of poems also need thought – they resonate in the memory after the reader has finished and should signal where the writer might go next, making us want to join them.
Spend an hour rearranging your poems on the floor – see how they respond to each-other and try to find your pamphlet’s shape.
CLARE POLLARD has published four collections of poetry, the most recent of which, Changeling (Bloodaxe, 2011) is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Her play The Weather premiered at the Royal Court Theatre and her documentary for radio, ‘My Male Muse’, was a Radio 4 Pick of the year. She co-edited the anthology Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21st Century and her version of Ovid’s Heroides will be published by Bloodaxe in 2013. www.clarepollard.com
These workshops have been devised especially for the Mslexia Pamphlet Competition. For the latest on the writing world, publishing and creativity subscribe to Mslexia now. To sample more Mslexia features or to find out about the latest issue click here.
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