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Grouping

The order and sequencing of poems must also occupy an editor’s thoughts, as it did mine. After long contemplation I decided to present Cogswell’s “representative” poems in chronological order, following the sequence of their original publication. This may seem disingenuous for obscuring the criteria I employed to select the poems in the first place. Wouldn’t it be more transparent to group the poems according to the criteria that dictated their selection, some may ask? The answer is “yes and no.” Yes, that may have been more transparent, but it would have also imposed my schema more forcefully. In presenting the poems chronologically, I leave it to readers to forge their own paths and draw their own conclusions about Cogswell’s work, thus freeing them to read with less constraint (and more possibility) than they otherwise would. Cogswell’s own thoughts in the poem “In the Great World of Being” support this: “...never rule the dance / In our world everywhere / Life’s god is circumstance” (25). In addition, presenting a poet’s work chronologically enables readers to see the changes of emphases and concern that follow a life. And as a self-proclaimed confessional poet, Cogswell’s work provides rich ground for that kind of discovery. So in an effort to follow his developing poetic sensibility, and to be as unobstructionist as possible in an already-coercive process, I have presented his poems chronologically.

Because digital mark-up allows for comprehensive searching by word and phrase, I encourage readers to use the tools of the site to navigate Cogswell’s poems in creative and critical ways. Typing the word “love” into the website’s search field, for example, shows all the Cogswell poems in which that word appear, thus opening possibilities for identification and research that are much more flexible and immediate than before.

 

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