Organizing Poetry Files

Ever since I first searched like hell for a poem I’d written by the title that isn’t obvious, I knew there would be a problem.

How the hell do you find that one poem in a cache of hundreds?

I tried sorting by date, even putting the date in the title. Yeah, that lasts as long as your memory of when you wrote it. Which in my case isn’t very long.

I tried grouping them per year. Again, you have to remember when you wrote it.

Alphabetically poses the same challenge — you have to remember what that title refers to.

I’ve tried every method. Each time, I’ve spent hours weeding through poems before realizing that poem with the weird-assed title is the one I wanted (and skipped over opening several times).

Today, I landed on what I think might be a better way to organize. I’m now grouping my poems in categories. Yes, even ones written seven years ago are being grouped with ones I wrote this weekend.

Here’s how it might go:

— Poems about Love

— Poems about Divorce

— Poems about Childhood

— Poems about Happiness

That’s a rough outline that I’ve come up with. And I realize that some poems will go in two places (or more, depending).

I still date my poems. That’s for tracking my own progress, like when I have months where I shoot for a poem a day. But having a system for easily locating your poems beats wasting time trying to find that one thing you want to revise or submit.

Another system that could work: Naming the file after the first line, a la ee cummings.

Poets, how do you organize your poetry files? What system has worked best for you?

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