#text processing #writing

Index of First Lines

Today, I’ve finished compiling a printed collection of every poem I’ve ever written. I do this every few years, just to have a nice paper copy in case all my digital copies go haywire. With 237 poems, printed double-sided, I now have a stack of paper about an inch thick. I bought a thesis binder for a good price online, so that I can quickly and easily turn the stack of paper into a durable bound volume.

While compiling this collection for myself, I learned a new trick. It’s surprisingly easy to create an index of first lines. I saw an example of such an index in the back of my shiny new copy of Sampson Starkweather’s book The First Books of Sampson Starkweather, which I bought from the author a couple months ago. I wondered: how much work is it to create an index of first lines?

There are two ways to do it. If each of your poems is a separate text file, then a handy command line trick will produce an index of first lines. If you have all your poems in a single Microsoft Word document, you can use the index feature to mark each first line as an index term, and then create an index. An index of first lines is an interesting way to review the collection of poems, and I see that some of the first lines are better than others.

Index of First Lines from Poems by Dylan Kinnett