4 Poetry Chapbook Strategies

Publish date:

Since many poets are getting together their November chapbooks this month, here are some poetry chapbook strategies. These are different than the 5 Tips for Organizing Poetry Chapbook Manuscripts, which is also worth a quick read.

Here are four poetry chapbook strategies:

  1. Include Only Your Most Vital Poems. Ten pages of great poetry is a lot more valuable than 100 pages of so-so poetry, just as one really excellent poem can make an entire career. Poets don't have to recreate "Howl" or "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" with each and every poem, but poets should consider whether it's better to have a 10-page chapbook of strong work or 20 pages of poems that "might be okay." When in doubt, leave it out.
  2. Revise Each Included Poem. Even if a poem has been previously published, it's a good rule of thumb to look at each poem with a fresh set of eyes when pulling them together for a collection. Some poems may be perfect, but many will likely be open to a small change here or a giant re-thinking there. Not sure how to get started? Here are 5 Ways to Revise Poems.
  3. Re-think Individual Poems as Part of Collection. When I re-worked Solving the World's Problems with my editor, we looked at poems on the atomic (word-by-word and line-by-line) level, but we also considered how the poems worked with each other. As a result, I completely re-wrote a previously published poem about fortune cookies that made predictions related specifically to other poems within the collection. It was a small way to tie the entire collection together.
  4. Take Risks. As with poems, sometimes the best thing to do as a poet is take a daring risk. Even if that risk means you fall flat on your face and/or fail. This can mean taking a risk in the subject matter of your poems, the organization of the collection, or other risks. Going back to my collection, my editor suggested trying a few risks, including removing punctuation and playing with line placement.



Forget Revision, Learn How to Re-create Your Poems!

Do you find first drafts the easy part and revision kind of intimidating? If so, you’re not alone, and it’s common for writers to think the revision process is boring–but it doesn’t have to be!

In the 48-minute tutorial Re-Creating Poetry: How to Revise Poems, poets will learn how to go about re-creating their poems with the use of 7 revision filters that can help poets more effectively play with their poems after the first draft. Plus, it helps poets see how they make revision–gasp–fun!

Click to continue.


Robert Lee Brewer is the editor of Poet’s Market and author of Solving the World’s Problems. Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


Check out these other poetic posts:



FightWrite™: Crime Fiction and Violence

Author and trained fighter Carla Hoch answers a writer's question about writing from the perspective of criminals and when best to utilize a fight.

Poetic Forms

Sedoka: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the sedoka, a 6-line question and answer Japanese form.


Plot Twist Story Prompts: Dream Sequence

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let your characters dream a little dream.

WD Vintage_Armour 12:03

Vintage WD: Don't Hide Your Light Verse Under a Bushel

In this article from 1960, poet and author Richard Armour explores the importance of light verse and gives helpful hints to the hopeful poet.


Tessa Arlen: On Polite Editorial Tussles and Unraveling Mysteries

In this article, author Tessa Arlen explains how to navigate the differences between American and English audiences and create a realistic historical mystery.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 547

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a lazy poem.


Denise Williams: Romance, Healing, and Learning to Love Revisions

Author Denise Williams recounts her experience with writing her first book while learning about the publishing industry and the biggest surprise about novel revisions.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 13th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.