How To Read My Books
It's been my experience that most poets decide to make a book when they have a sufficient number of poems published in literary magazines, at which point they simply gather those poems, with a few others, and add a title that generally lends little insight as to content.
This practice has never seemed, to me, particularly effective. A reader of such volumes must feel daunted by the sheer disparateness of the verse, encouraging him or her simply to pick and choose, randomly, a few pieces, to sample. Having no cohesive structure, the book surely must leave the reader without an overarching sense of order, tension, movement, closure. Thus, it's no wonder that most people avoid poetry.
From the beginning of my writing career, in 1963, I've always striven to create books that are thematic in their presentation. When I begin putting a manuscript together, I search for poems that have a similar motif, such as love, nature, political satire, the Holocaust, childhood, the South, small-town America. I then weave them, to tell a story.
My approach is both narrative and novelistic. My books have traditional beginnings, middles, and endings, often using prologues as introductions, epilogues as codas. I group the poems into sections that act as chapters, with each chapter moving linearly, reaching a crescendo that catapults the reader into the next chapter, all the chapters, finally, moving toward a dramatic conclusion. Even the few works of mine that are constructed strictly chronologically, lacking these "chapters," flow in undeviating narrative progressions.
I strongly recommend that when reading one of my books, you move sequentially, from the very first poem to the very last. And if you follow this suggestion, the effect will be one in which you'll experience each poem taking strength from the others, leaving you, upon completion, with an exhilarating feeling that you've just participated in a growth process, with the characters and the narrator.
Louis Daniel Brodsky
St. Louis, Missouri