This arose out of a discussion on Facebook about keeping records of poems written. I keep my poem texts in annual directories, going back to the 1980s. So I know which poems I wrote in 1996, 2009 or whenever. I also have an Excel spreadsheet, with worksheets for individual years, with columns for date finished, year published, where published and so on. Someone asked about subjects, and it got me thinking about indexing my poems so I can retrieve them, because as you will appreciate, it’s easy to lose track of what a poem was about when it was written 15 years ago.
There are many ways of approaching poem indexing: my friends at the Scottish Poetry do a splendid job of indexing their collections, but I’m thinking about personal retrieval. I could use form as one facet, if I were to make a rigorous facet analysis as my library training might indicate, but frankly most would be in the free verse facet, with a few haiku, renga, ghazal and sonnet forms. What’s more useful is a list of categories; a typology of poems. So I went through the spreadsheet for a single year (2008) and for the 40-odd finished poems from that year. I came up with the following categories:
‘imagist’ (can’t think of an alternative term)
Some of these overlap, sometimes within a single poem, but it’s already been a useful exercise. I now know, for that year anyway, what types of poems I was writing, and in what proportion. In fact travel and nature were the largest categories, with 11 and 8 poems respectively.
At the next level down I’ve got the subjects, and there’s a far greater variety of those terms as they become really specific. So within ‘travel’ I’ve got Lithuania, China, Tibet, France, Germany and Assynt. Within ‘nature’ I’ve got birds, plants, walking, gardens and others. The most difficult category for me is the one I’ve called ‘imagist’. These are mainly mood pieces, when I try to evoke emotions through images, real and surreal. I don’t know how else to typify them.
I don’t know where this is going to take me. Am I going to go through all my finished poems the same way? That’s a daunting task, and I don’t have time at the moment to do it, but I may come back to it.