Poetry essay: Grouping and ordering poems in a collection

If you are a poet, and write multiple poems, at some point you may decide to group those poems together.  Maybe you are creating an eBook of poems.  Maybe you are thinking about having a chapbook of poems.  Maybe you are thinking of having poems on different sections of your website or blog.

If you are thinking of grouping poems together, one thing you might be wondering about is, how do you group and order them together?  This can come up when you get the idea to have poems grouped and ordered.  You want the order of your poems and the groups they are in to make sense for the reader and to get your message across.  You want the poems grouped and ordered in the most effective way.

If you are thinking about this, below are some ideas for how you can group and order your poems.

The order they were written

This could be the easiest answer to the question.  You can simply leave the poems in the order you wrote them and in whatever groups you made them (if more than one).

There are advantages to this method.

First, it is simple.  You don’t have to do anything extra.

Second, it works off the idea of being natural.  You are leaving the poems in the order and groups you wrote them.  You aren’t overthinking things, looking into things, or contriving things.  This can be an almost organic approach.

Third, your ordering and grouping might reflect something natural.  If you wrote the poems over time, then how you changed over time, and what you experienced, will be reflected in them.  Showing them in this order can be an effective presentation.

Fourth, when you created the poems, you might have had some natural groups in mind, although maybe not at the front of your mind.  Maybe you started writing about illness.  This then lead to you writing about death.  This then lead to you writing about winter.  This lead to writing about spring.  This lead to writing about life.  This grouping, although maybe not intended, can be effective.

By subject matter

One obvious way to group poems is based on what they are about.  You could read through the poems you want to collect, assign subjects to them, and organize them by subject.  You could think about the flow from one subject to another and use that to help you order the groups.

By tone

Another way to group or order poems is by tone.  Is the poem upbeat?  Is the poem sad?  Is the poem defiant?  Is the poem sarcastic?  You could examine the tones of the poems and group them in those categories.  Again, like with the subject matter, you could order the tones in a way that you think has a flow and makes sense for the reader.

Combine subject matter and tone

If you like the idea of organizing poems by subject matter or by tone, you might consider combining the two together.  For example, you could organize poems by subject matter group.  Then, within each group, you could organize the poems by tone.  This can create a natural flow to your work.  You could also do the reverse, and group the poems by tone, and then organize them by subject matter.


One way to order poems is to do so randomly.  You could write all of your poem titles (or some other identifying information) on pieces of paper, mix those pieces in a bowl, and draw them out.  You could then present your poems in the order they were selected.

The idea here is based on the idea, that in some instances, what a person thinks of isn’t really all that better than something random.  Think of something like seating arrangements at a party.  It could be, that whatever arrangement a person arrives at through hours of thought and work, might not turn out to really be better than had they just had people sit in random spots.  The same thought could apply to poem ordering.


This is a bit like assigning the order randomly, but it uses arbitrary methods instead.  An example would be ordering the poems alphabetically based on title.  This is arbitrary in the sense that it might not have any reflection on any substantial quality of the poems.  It can be a useful way to order though, because it eliminates the work and decision making that some other methods might use.


One way to group and order poems is by quality.  Imagine if you wrote one hundred poems and, although you thought they were all good, you thought ten really stood out.  Where should you put these ten?

Answering this question can help you order your poems.  You might put the ten best poems at the start and lead with the best.  You might put them at the end, and end with the best.  You might mix them in throughout the collection to have bursts of extra good work.

In looking at quality, you could extend the idea past just the best.  You might have three categories: good, better, and best.  You could use these categories to form groups and create an ordering of the poems.


Artwork to inspire poetry: Cherries


Above is an artwork of cherries.  It depicts four cherries in a grouping.  It can inspire poetry.  Here is a poem inspired by it:

the cherries were picked
from all trees but four
the birds sang


Poem Series: Experimental Poetry Forms: Grouping: Mung Bean

Not all poems have to be deep,
this one is not by any leap.

  This is a poem about the mung bean,
  known to be small and green by those who’ve seen,
  tiny green little things that one could glean.

 Now, mung beans are nice things,
 and though this poem sings,
 its depth just slightly pings,
 it hardly even rings,
 but, its niceness still clings.
(16/40) Experimental Poetry Form: Grouping

Experimental Poetry Form: Grouping

The following experimental poetry form focuses on grouping.  It has three stanzas that form the groups.

The first stanza is a couplet.  It has eight syllables per line with no meter and the two lines rhyme.

The second stanza has three lines.  Each line in the stanza has ten syllables with no meter and each line rhymes.  Each line of the second stanza is indented two spaces.

The third stanza has five lines, each line has six unmetered syllables, and each line rhymes.  Each line of the third stanza is indented one space.

The form looks like this:

A (8 syllables)
A (8 syllables)

  B (10 syllables)
  B (10 syllables)
  B (10 syllables)

 C (6 syllables)
 C (6 syllables)
 C (6 syllables)
 C (6 syllables)
 C (6 syllables)

The idea of the form is to have three distinct groups based on the stanzas.  Each stanza is different in its number of lines, rhyming, syllable count and indention.  These differences help form the groups.

As a further experimentation with this form, additional differences could be added such as different meters.

The intention of the grouping is to have three parts make up one poem.  Because the stanzas are separate in form, this may influence a poet using the form to group ideas by stanza, rather than having one main idea or having the ideas in the poem be separated in some other way.  The idea is to see how this grouping influences poems.