Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Uncollected or Unloved Poems?


There's a nice piece by Jennifer B.McDonald in the New York Times' Paper Cuts book blog about publishers using the phase "Uncollected Poems" as  a subtitle. She correctly wonders why the word "previously"  went missing , noting that once a clutch of stray poems have been formally gathered, edited and published, they become, ahhhh, collected.Hailing a poetry book as either "Collected Poems" or,less impressively, "Selected Poems" offers the buyer the sense that the object in their hand is the result of a specific project, or a coherent chronicle of an especially subject-rich period in the author's life. Those evocations may be true to varying degrees, but packaging for the marketplace has as much to do with it; few of us wish to invest in an untidy and ill considered grab bag of verse.

The hope, I guess, for the "Uncollected" sobriquet is that might resonate with as much as authority as the previous two qualifiers.The intention being that these poems are distinct in their own right. But distinct exactly how? As in that they've been ignored, set aside, forgotten about or rejected over the years for ever-multiplying and varied reasons? "Uncollected Poems" sounds like a hasty euphemism for "unloved poems". They hadn't been collected up to this point for reasons of quality; I can't shake the feeling that "uncollected" suggest a batch of poems a poet might have tossed out if he suddenly found himself having to move to another location. The first thing to go is whatever one has no use for , or is no longer found of.  The