On Putting Together a Poetry Anthology
Well, it's finally happened. The Poetic Muselings' anthology, "Lifelines," is going live. It will be available on Amazon.com on Nov. 11, and our website, poetic-muselings.net, is online. It's been a long road, one that has given me a new appreciation for what it takes to put together a collection of poetry, especially an anthology composed of poetry from six very different poets.
When we all started meeting to share our poetry, back in 2008, we didn't do it with anything particular in mind -- certainly not with the idea of putting together an anthology. Still, over the course of the next year or so, we wrote poems and shared them with each other.
Eventually we decided to try to put together an anthology. We decided on a them of the Muses -- yes, the Greek ones, and yes, you're right, that didn't end up being the theme we used. But we started out that way. We wrote our poems, selected 12 each, attributed each of them to a muse, came together to pick six each.
We did it using Google Documents. My contribution to the cause was as chief techie, and I set us up with a shared space on Google Documents where we could all work together. The poems were visible to all of us, and any of us could comment on them. Changes made by one were visible to all. This made putting together our collection possible. If we'd had to rely on exchanging email, well, we'd still be sending poems back and forth.
When the time came to choose the poems for our collection, I made a spread sheet where we could each select our favorites of our own and everyone else's poems. We picked the top six for each of us. This was a surprisingly straightforward, hassle-free process. After we "voted," it was clear which poems we were going to include.
Then we started putting the collection together. We divided it by muse. We produced a draft version.
It didn't work, so we came back together to figure out what to do instead.
Why didn't it work? Good question. It simply didn't have the overlying narrative arc that is the key, in my opinion, to a really good poetry collection, one that leads the reader from poem to poem, much in the way that reading a bookfrom start to finish creates a story in the reader's mind.
So we met again, in our chatroom, to try to figure out what to do. Mary Jensen volunteered to take a look and the poems and see what she could come up with.
All I can say is that Mary was inspired, and wrote our theme poem, the poem we used to divide our anthology into sections, sections that corresponded to stages in our lives. And it worked.
So now the anthology is about to "go live." It's been three years since the day that Lisa Gentile couldn't connect to the internet, leaving moderator Michele Graf to organize a spontaneous chat. A collection of poetry is more than the sum of its parts. It is the cumulative effect of each poem, one after the other, leading the reader from one to the other to create a unified whole. Without the unifying principle we have a stack of paper. With it we have an anthology.