published and edited Plains Poetry Journal in the 80s and 90s. Harry Duncan’s Cummington Press published her first poetry collection, Bathsheba on the Third Day, in 1986. Lambing Press published her second collection, Love like a Conflagration, in 2020 and will publish her third in 2022. Greer lives in North Dakota.
Q:1. How did you decide on the order of the poems in the book?
I don’t believe that the order of the poems in most collections has much significance. In most collections, the order is not organic to the work; it’s imposed after creation. Order can bring pleasure and surprise—Psalm 23 comes immediately after Psalm 22!—but it’s not essential.
Each of my poems (collected in no particular order over many years) is its own universe. “Ordering” them daunts me, but it seems to be expected, so I do my best.
Love like a Conflagration is really two books. The first half is newer poems, and the second half is a republication of my 1986 collection, Bathsheba on the Third Day. Bathsheba was first published in a limited edition of 300 copies, hand-set and hand-printed by Harry Duncan at The Cummington Press. He was a legend. I was so new and ignorant that I didn’t fully realize at the time what it meant to be published by Harry Duncan. As I recall, he suggested the order of the poems in Bathsheba and I was relieved that he did so.
In the front half of Conflagration, I had, from the beginning, wanted “Micha-el” first, as a standalone. I think it’s one of the best poems in the book. When Modern Age published it in 2019, people on Twitter really seemed to like it. And it subtly encapsulates themes I had discovered running through the entire collection: desire, transgression, repentance, salvation. A line in “Micha-el” became the collection’s title. The rest of the poems in the front of the book seemed to fall, very roughly, into pre-repentance and post-repentance themes, so that’s how I arranged them. It was all I could think of—but it seems to work.
More answers tomorrow.