A reader writes to ask:

How should we format a manuscript of multiple poems that each span more than a single page? Do we number our pages starting from 1 whenever we begin a new poem, or should we number our manuscript 1,2, 3... 10, etc. regardless of the poem? Also, what information should we include on each subsequent page, and is it necessary to number the first page of the manuscript at all? Am I right in assuming that a tonne of section breaks are in order?

Some sites say to include your name and address (I've even seen e-mail) on every page of the manuscript, but that seems a bit redundant and makes the headers of my word document look cluttered and untidy. Other sites say to just include your name and a few key words from your poem's title on each page, along with "continue stanza" or "begin new stanza." This seems, aesthetically to me at least, the best format. Is there a professional standard I should be aware of?

Excellent questions, all. I've recently updated my sample poetry manuscript, so before anything else I'd suggest that you take a look at that, and that you review my post "Formatting and submitting poems." To hit the highlights, in a multi-poem submission you should start your numbering over at 1 for each poem. No number is required for the first page of a poem, while a minimal header with no contact info goes in the upper-left corner of each subsequent page. Single-space your poem, and separate stanzas with a blank line.

But there's an important point you ask about that my earlier post doesn't address. What exactly goes in those headers on subsequent pages of a long poem? It's very simple, and it agrees with what you've read at some other sites. Put your full name on its own line in the upper-left corner. On the next line put one or two words from the title of the poem, the page number, and either "begin new stanza" or "continue stanza" depending on where the page break fell. (That way you don't have to clutter your poem with a lot of unsightly # symbols.) Then skip a line and continue your poem. Your header should look something like this:

William Shunn                                       
Passing, page 2, begin new stanza

Poem text continues here.

In other words, your instincts were good. The professional standard is indeed the more aesthetically pleasing option.

Crossposted from Proper Manuscript Format
I wrote this poem to read at last night's Tuesday Funk—the 64th episode in the series, and my final night as host.

Bless the English language
for its charming, maddening

Will I look back on this night
as the last time I was here
or the last time I was here?

It matters to me.
Does it matter to you?

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
What is the sound of one hand clapping?
What is the sound of a tree falling in a forest?
What is the sound of a story without a reader?
What is the sound of tears on my typewriter keys?

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Dead squirrel lies prone,
Chin resting on its two paws.
Looks like it's sleeping.

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
A reader writes to ask:

I have three questions about longer poetry manuscripts.

In most cases, editors request poetry submissions that contain 3-5 poems, yet nearly every example I can see depicts a submission of a single poem. How, or should the subsequent poems be formatted differently? Does the address belong at the top of each poem or only the first?

When is a cover sheet appropriate? Is that only for manuscripts of poetry books and contests, or is a cover sheet also used for the typical submissions of 3-5 poems?

I see some conflicting advice online about how to format the second and subsequent pages of a poem that is longer than one page in length, but I don't see many clear visual examples like the ones you provide. Do you have any advice on those formatting issues?

These are excellent questions about poetry submissions, one of the least-discussed topics in the manuscript format conversation. Before answering them, I want to review the basics of poetry formatting.

To begin, place your name and contact information in the upper-left corner of your poem manuscript, same as you would with a prose manuscript. In the upper-right corner, optionally, you may list the number of lines in your poem. Skip a few lines, then center the title of your poem. Skip a few more lines and begin the text of your poem.

The text itself should be single-spaced (not double-spaced like a prose manuscript). Skip a line between stanzas. Rather than the standard 1-inch margins of a prose manuscript, you can set the margins for the text of your poem anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 inches, depending on how long your average line is. Your goal is for the poem to look more or less centered between the margins. If a single line of the poem is too long to fit on one line of the manuscript, it should carry over to the next line with a "hanging indent," as shown in this four-line sample:

Between me, safe in my seat on this bus,
And the decadent majesty of the salmon-red cliffs of
     eastern Utah,
A ghost landscape stands sentinel,
As if etched into the glass by a cadre of capering

Those are the basics of poetry formatting. To move on to your questions, if your poem is too long to fit on one page, then all subsequent pages need a header, including page number, in the upper-left corner. Try to break pages between stanzas of your poem, though this may not always be possible.

When submitting a package of three to five poems, each individual poem should follow the standard format, with your contact info in the upper-left corner. The page numbering should start over for each multi-page poem in your package. For example, if the third poem in your package has two pages, then its second page should still be numbered 2.

When you ask about a "cover sheet," I assume that you mean the equivalent of a title page for a novel, a separate page with your contact info and the work's title. No, a cover sheet is not necessary, but if the market's guidelines request a cover letter that lists your previous publications, then you should certainly include that.

I've updated my sample poem manuscript page, by the way, to provide a sample of a submission package containing three poems. Take a look.

(Special thanks to Chuck Sambuchino for his book Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, which was invaluable in preparing this post.)

Crossposted from Proper Manuscript Format

Poem: "We"

Oct. 1st, 2013 03:59 pm
"We got our asses kicked yesterday."

Monday morning at a diner in the suburbs,
the words spiral over from the next table.
The men have been talking about work,
and at first I think they mean on the job site.

But of course by "we" they mean the Bears,
and the ass-kickers are Detroit, I realize,
as the sentence stutter-steps around the offense,
drops through an alternate parsing route, and scores.

This "we" that makes such strange linguistic sense,
I still can't wrap my hands around it and tuck it under my arm.
I'm not a part of this "we," this synecdoche,
the "we" meaning "they" meaning "us all."

My ass suffered no kicking on that gridiron,
nor did the asses of my two neighbors,
and Chicago's still intact, as far as I can tell,
her buildings straight, her storefronts unsacked.

This allegiance, this adhesion, it's all Greek to me,
an apostate, an infidel to the geography of devotion.
Betrayed by congregations of "we," cast out,
I stand apart. No border could make "we" of "they" and "me."

Until this morning's news intrudes. Dateline: The Capitol.

We got our asses kicked yesterday.

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
senior citizens
holding hands like preschoolers
blocking the sidewalk

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
She strains at the leash,
Trying to turn the corner.
"Not that way," I say.

But Ella insists,
So I give in and follow.
Not that big a deal.

This short, narrow lane,
It's a valid path back home,
Not such a detour.

Along the sidewalk
We rush, my arm stretched out straight,
Not pausing to sniff.

She stops at the porch,
Looks at the door, looks at me,
Not old now but young.

We were gone six years,
Back now in the neighborhood
Not even six weeks.

I wish we could knock,
But our friends are not at home,
Not now, not for years.

They fled this city
Even sooner than we did,
Not fond of Gotham

But fond of our dog,
Who wags on their former stoop,
Not fenced in by time.

Their former stoop

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Brooklyn-bound N train, Thursday evening.
Leaving Ditmars Boulevard,
End of the line,
He slouches through the doors from the next car
Like a gunslinger into a quiet saloon.
Angry and blond under a straw fedora,
Jaunty beach towel around the shoulders
Of his Cuban shirt,
Belligerent hips thrust forward,
Hand jammed down the front of his
Oversized blue swim trunks
Like he's just waiting
To unload on the first cocksucker
Who looks at him funny.

No one gives him the satisfaction.

Where's he coming from, this Lord of Flatbush,
This Warrior coming out to play?
There's no beach at Ditmars,
Not unless you just swam over from Rikers.
It's ninety minutes to Coney Island
And dusk will soon be falling.
A hundred minutes, let's say, since humiliation
Sent him fleeing the sand and cotton candy
To the farthest corner of the earth:
Astoria, Queens.

But the gravity of betrayal on an otherwise
Perfect afternoon draws him back,
Back to an abandoned beach blanket for two
In the shadow of a graffiti-tagged lifeguard tower.
Flopped in a plastic seat, legs splayed,
Glaring and helpless,
He burns to curse the heavens,
But all the God was prayed out of him as a child.
Or is he still a child,
Hand down his pants
Fondling his balls like worry beads,
Like a long-dormant rosary?
Hail Mary full of grace.
Spectacles, testicles, wallet, watch me,
No, don't watch me,
What're you lookin' at anyway?

Ninety minutes to Coney Island,
End of the line,
To take back what's his—
Or, more likely,
Kick sand in the face of the moon.

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
You used to be such a sweet boy.
What changed?

You used to tell me everything,
Ask me all your questions.
You couldn't wait to show off
Your times tables.  At age three.
Which you worked out for yourself.
What changed?

You used to climb into my lap
And rub the buzz-cut fuzz
On the back of my head.
You used to ask the barber
To cut your hair
So it was just like mine.
What changed?

You used to show me your stories,
Talk about your friends,
Tell me what was on your mind.
You used to let me point out
When you were straying
From the straight and narrow
In deed or in thought.
What changed?

You didn't used to keep to yourself,
Skulk around the house,
Stay in your room,
Use that gutter language.
I didn't used to need to drink,
Or use this belt on you.

What changed?

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Maggie Thatcher's dead,
but so is Roger Ebert.
Always a trade-off.

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
cigar aroma
wafting in from the golf course
signals that it's spring

Signs of spring by shunn, on Flickr

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
I saw the first
red-winged blackbirds
of the year
this morning.

Sixteen degrees,
west wind fourteen
miles per hour,
wind chill two.

I know it's the
first day of spring,
but I still think
they were confused.

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Subtle peppery undertone

Crisp pine
Grapefruit aroma

Mellow hops
Rich toffee notes
Freshly baked biscuits

Clean desert aroma
Citrus weed
Tangy cactus spine
Horse blanket

Slight nuttiness
Hints of bourbon
Smoked rubber
Magnesium flare

Coconut oil
Disintegrated cork
Essence of latex and sand
Porcelain overtones

Back alley rainwater
Wisps of mousetrap wood
Gunpowder residue

Battery copper
Flop sweat

Rocket fuel
Interplanetary dust
Venusian methane
Tears of loneliness

Half Acre

The topic of this poem was suggested by Kevin Swallow.

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
How can you live with a dog,
with its lifespan of ten to fifteen years,
and not realize how quickly the clock
is ticking?

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
time is not on my side today

instead it's hanging above me
like a Damoclean sword

or gaping at my feet
like the very jaws of hell

no, time is not on my side today
unless time is a spear

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
This poem was written for Tina Woelke, a donor to the Chicago Writers Conference Kickstarter campaign. One of the reward perks available was an original poem composed by me on a topic of the donor's choosing. Tina chose "reading," and I debuted the poem at a special edition of Tuesday Funk on Friday, September 14, 2012.

The telegraph was not invented in 1836
but three thousand years before Christ,
when the first writer took up a pointed stick
and traced out on papyrus the careful,
casual chain of coded symbols that
transmitted meaning across time and space
directly into a brain equipped to decipher it.

The telephone was not invented in 1876
but over five thousand years ago
when the first writer took up a pointed stick
and scratched out the vibrations in clay
that tickle the tympanic membrane of the heart
with thoughts conceived in days older than dirt.

Telepathy was not invented in 2170
but forty thousand years before Christ
when, by the light of smoky torches,
the first writer poured out his heart
in ochre, hematite, and charcoal,
unable in any other way to express
the experience of stalking a god,
and slaying it with a pointed stick.

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
My apologies if you've already seen this. Months ago—way back in March, as a matter of fact—I conceived of a poem that would incorporate hiphop-style rhymes with science fiction storytelling and would be called (as I knew even then) "Grand Motherfucker." I would write the poem sometime over the spring or summer, then perform it at the September 4th science fiction edition of Tuesday Funk.

I made a few notes, but somehow I managed to not start working on the poem in earnest until late in the morning of, er, September 4th. I worked furiously for the next few hours, finally suturing up the last rhymes at around 5:30 pm. The show began at 7:30.

Better late than never! Here's how the poem went over last Tuesday night. Or perhaps how it went down. I hope you like it.

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
milepost 0

a bike towing a dog with its hindquarters on a cart

a totem pole

a line of hand-holding kindergartners being urged by their teacher in French to move quickly across the path

statues of chesspieces

volleyball players ripening like wheat in the sun

a golden retriever running full-tilt to the edge of the lakewall and leaping far out over the water

so many drinking fountains, but never when I want one

a red-winged blackbird blocking my access to its drinking fountain until I'm standing right there

a cellphone-talking hipster's Smart Water bottle and Starbucks coffee cup blocking my access to a drinking fountain until I'm standing right there

a sexy blonde runner next to me at the multi-spigot fountain moaning so loudly between slurps that I have to put it out of my mind and ride away thirsty

Navy Pier

an gray-haired man on a bike who knocks a younger cyclist into some tourists on that crowded bridge over the Chicago River and doesn't stop to apologize

the Field Museum

the Shedd Aquarium

the Adler Planetarium

a flying saucer parked atop Roman ruins, or rather Soldier Field

a guy who looks just like Starburns from "Community," down to the top hat, but with normal sideburns

an Orthodox woman walking with conviction in the 90-degree heat

geese that never flinch no matter how closely I pass them

a beached yacht rocking on the shore, emergency trucks all around

a Chicago Police boat searching the water

a man walking backward up a hill

a hundred feet of the pathway ahead covered in drifted sand

the Museum of Science and Industry

a broken fountain spraying water thirty feet

the turnaround at milepost 18

the same man an hour later, still walking backward

the Chicago skyline like a tiny sapphire city

my wife, her mouth stained orange from an impulsive snow cone

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Is a lot like
Riding a bicycle

Not because it's so easy
To get back up on

But because
Flying along
And you go farther
Than you intended to go

And you have to
Turn around and take
Yourself home

And it's all uphill
And the wind is in
Your face

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill

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