The approach varies from collection to collection. Lost Books, my first one, was compiled in 2006; in that instance, I was literally pulling all poetry I'd written from about 2004 up until that point that seemed like it might suit the purpose. Over the next few years of shopping it around to publishers (in the form of a query letter and sample), poems were removed and added as I wrote newer, stronger work that was, of course, being published on a piece-by-piece basis in magazines. Lost Books got three or four show-us-more type bites from a couple of US publishers and a couple of UK publishers early in the process, but it didn't find a home until Flipped Eye Publishing accepted it in early 2008. In the interim, I'd compiled a chapbook, Devil's Road Down, which was published by Maverick Duck Press in 2009.
All of my work seems to deal with these themes in one way or another: bodies of water, dreams, ghosts, history, legends, literature, memories, regrets, storytelling, and travel. Given this pool of persistent imagery, I've found that compiling my work in the years since almost becomes an act of blocking it chronologically (what did I write next that was strongest, and where do the boundaries of this particular assemblage fall?) If Lost Books and Devil's Road Down are about leaving the US behind in 2005, only to find that the sadness and stories I'd been telling at the time had followed me, then Wanderlust is about realizing I had at least found a place (the UK) I could exist without feeling like a fish out of water. My newest collection, The Dishonesty of Dreams, might be a study in madness in the opposite direction; from late 2011 through early 2012, I was forced to come back to a country that no longer feels like home. That grief is so great that I'm still trying to find words for it, and the pieces in DoD look hard at the harsh truths dreams tell us by lying. They're also about being other people, because being other people is the only escape mechanism I have left. Then again, the editorial team at Flipped Eye might have put it more succinctly than I can:
Where [the author] explored consequences in her first collection, 'Lost Books' (2010), here [in 'The Dishonesty of Dreams'] she engages the liminal, the reality that exists at the borders of a lived life; the fables we choose to build upon, the lies we tell ourselves to make our dreams true.
The trouble is, though, that I'm not sure it's possible to make dreams true.