Well, not quite, but it’s getting there. Back in the day I used to make back-of-the-book indexes for publishers – mostly advanced science textbooks, since I trained as a scientist. It was a way of earning a little extra pin money. I did geology, geophysics, chemistry, ecology, physiology textbooks, because these were most of my specialisms, but I found I could stretch into other disciplines, such as fish biology, forestry, cosmology, climatology and others. So I have a fondness for books with good indexes, and I think all serious books should have indexes. There are certain kinds of indexes that I admire, and one of them is the concordance. I suppose Biblical concordances are the most familiar ones, where each occurrence of a word in the Bible is referenced to its book, chapter and verse.
It’s sometimes occurred to me that some poetry would benefit from this treatment. I’m thinking in particular of Norman MacCaig’s Collected Poems. How often have I wondered, or been asked, about a specific place, animal or person in a MacCaig poem? Too many times, but I’m not about to undertake the work myself – too many other things to do. My memory is still pretty good, so I haven’t found the need to do it for my own poems, but I do have lists, and they’re all on a spreadsheet, so I record when written, when and where published etc. Each new year I make a new directory for poems written that year, and I save that year’s poems into it. Each poem has the date of finishing, or revising it, at the end. I’ve also got annual tables for submissions, so I can keep track of when and to whom I submit poems, who rejects them, and which mag to try next. I don’t do multiple simultaneous submissions – editors hate that. I print out lists of directory contents using a handy little program called Karen’s Directory Printer. I don’t know who Karen is, but I’m grateful to her. You can customise it, and I have it set to print file names, date created, and date last revised (I’m not bothered about intermediate revisions, file sizes and technical stuff).
I’ve just printed out my list of poems written in 2010 (43 completed, since you ask), and out of curiosity I’ve tried to categorise them this year, not as an index, but just to see what I mostly write about. This year landscapes and travels are the largest category, closely followed by poems about relationships. I’ve written several about the arts – painting, dance, theatre – and a few about my own personal history. I suppose that’s part of getting older, that I put myself into some poems, although it’s often not the real me. I have fun with invented personas.