In an interview with Graham Nunn, I asked him about the selection process for putting a collection together, in this case Ocean Hearted – here’s what he said:
Selection is far more painful than editing. It is the one job I happily give over to other people. It is incredibly difficult to make that ruthless decision about what stays in and what is left out. I am lucky to have four or five people that I can send work to; people whose instinct I trust. Once they are finished with the ms, it is generally pretty clear which poems have risen to the surface. It is then a matter of sequencing. In that sense, I generally look at things like a musician making an album. I want each poem to make the collection build in intensity and emotion. More often than not I have a start and finish point, so then I look over the poems to build the narrative in between.
And I definitely agree. Having just gone through the process for between giants I find the selection process for my own work tough indeed. No surprise there, as I’m hardly the most objective person – having written the poems it’s hard to tell which are strongest. Sometimes it seems easy to tell which I feel are weakest, until someone tells me I just cut one of their favs!
As an example, this piece which was published at foam:e not too long ago, I thought would fit in the collection. Once I started selecting and putting the pieces together however, found I couldn’t sequence it. It seemed to stand out a little, as no other pieces really dealt with film or the cinema that way and I didn’t want to disrupt the feel of the collection. So it didn’t make it and I still wonder about that one – but in the end, not everything can go in, cuts have to be made.
As the end of October and the release approaches, I thought I’d quickly mention that I’ll be running a between giants giveaway competition soon too!