A really successful poetry anthology needs two essential ingredients: pace and rhythm. The editor has to think hard about which poems are put together and how they relate to each other.
Much of the challenge is working on the order and identifying certain poems that act as breathers to achieve the right tempo. Since childhood, in my loneliest or most tumultuous hours, I have found solace in identifying the perfect poem for the moment. Although I still hunt in secondhand bookshops, the Pharmacy, which started as a live event at festivals, has led readers to share their experiences and recommendations with me.
It has also informed my choices here. Not long ago, a condensed version of the trilogy made it on to the World Book Night giveaway list: the anthologies hit home wherever people had troubles — in shelters, prisons and hospitals. My favourite response? It makes you feel human. This anthology began with a conversation between Anthony Holden and the scholar-critic Frank Kermode, about the difference between true sentiment and mawkishness, and the pros and cons of men weeping. A Poem for Every Day of the Year, edited by Allie Esiri This is a really fine family anthology: just leave it around in the house and see how often everyone, not just the children, turns to it.
Poetry for a Change; A National Poetry Day Anthology, illustrated by Chie Hosaka The theme of change threads through the 43 poems in this charmingly illustrated little book. Each of its contributors presents one of their own poems, alongside one of their favourite classic poems.
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Categories: Publishing Poetry. There are 16 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. Identify your strongest poems. Start by reading through your poems one by one. You may have a stack of forty to fifty poems that you are considering or a pile of hundreds. Read each poem and then put them in two piles: strong and weak. You can then look more closely at the poems in the strong pile and include these in the collection. You should try to use your own judgement when deciding if a poem is strong or weak and not rely on outside opinions. Ordering your poems from strongest to weakest in a collection will not showcase your best work as a whole and may leave the reader deflated or disinterested by the time they get to the end of the book.
Find a unifying theme or form. Many successful poetry collections will present a unified theme to the reader and include poems that speak to this theme.
This will allow the reader to connect to the poems on a poem-by-poem level and the collection as a whole. You may then use queerness as the theme for your poems and make sure that each poem relates back to this theme. You may also notice that many of your strongest poems follow a specific poetic form, such as the sonnet or the haiku.
You may then decide to use this poetic form as the unifiers and only include poems that use this form. Have a narrative arc. The collection should feel like it has a beginning, middle, and end, where you should start somewhere and end up somewhere else. The goal should be to take the reader on an emotional journey.
The journey may end with a resolution of some kind or a conclusion. Notice if the mood or tone shifts if you place one poem next to another. For example, you may notice that you have a poem about being queer in high school and another poem about being queer as an adult.
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You may decide to place several poems after the high school poem so there is a build up and a change that happens by the time the reader gets to the adult poem about queerness. As well, if you have recurring images or phrases in your poems, you may spread them out so they do not feel clustered together. You may also notice that certain poems fit together better side by side and certain poems become more meaningful when they fall at a certain point in the narrative arc of the collection.
Link certain poems together. You can also try linking your poems together so they make sense on a micro level. This is often done with poems that feel more emotional and abstract. You may link poems together based on wording used in each poem or images that feel connected. Or, you may link three poems together based on a repeated line or an image they all share. Put your strongest poem first.
Like the first line of a novel, the first poem in your collection is crucial. It will tell your reader what they can expect in the rest of the collection and compel them to continue reading. You should try to have your strongest poem as the first poem in your collection so you can showcase your best work upfront. However, you should not try to hide really weak poems by using stronger poems as a distraction.
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Your reader will likely notice this and question why weaker poems were included in the collection in the first place. Leave out poems that do not fit with the whole.
You should be willing to let go of poems that do not fit with the rest or that do not mesh with the collection as a whole. Part of arranging a strong poetry collection is being willing to admit when a poem does not work and needs to be cut. Remember that you can always save any poems that are cut for future collections or other projects.
Just because a poem does not fit with your current collection does not mean it will not find a home among other poems in the future. Read the collection out loud from start to finish. Once you have organized your poems into a collection, you should read it out loud to yourself from start to finish. Listen to how each poem sounds next to each other and notice if there is a build up of emotion, mood, and tension as the collection progresses. They may be able to give you useful feedback and constructive criticism about the ordering of your poems.
Having a second pair of eyes on the collection will likely only make it better. Consider dividing the collection into sections. You may decide to frame the collection by dividing it into sections.
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You may divide the poems based on the narrative arc of the collection, such as poems that discuss the beginning, poems that discuss the middle, and poems that discuss the end. Or, you may break up the poems based on a theme or on specific images. If you decide to include section titles, try to make them still appear mysterious to the reader so the reader does not feel they are being told what to expect in each section.
You may decide to begin and end each section with strong poems that link each section together. This will help to book end each section but still allow the sections to link together into a cohesive whole. Keep in mind you do not need to have sections in your collection, especially if you feel the collection does better without any breathing space or any interruptions.
Some poetry collections benefit from having a straight narrative with no breaks or sections. Do a spelling and grammar check. You should also polish up the language in the collection to ensure it is grammatically correct and free of misspelled words. Do not rely on the spellcheck feature on your computer to do this for you.