Carol Ann Duffy offers advice on how to create a good anthology.


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Anthologise: A Message From Carol Ann Duffy


Click the links below for our guidelines and resources that will help you to create a good anthology:

Welcome to the resource pages for Anthologise!

I fell in love with poetry- reading it then starting to write it- when I was 11. English was always my favourite subject and, within that, poetry. I was always VERY lucky with the English teachers I had, particularly Miss Scriven and Mr Walker. Miss Scriven was very keen for her students to learn poems by heart and the first one I remember learning was The Song of Wandering Aengus by W.B.Yeats. It is still my favourite poem, probably because I got so close to it by knowing and saying it aloud. The poem began to feel a part of me, in the way a favourite song did.

So, when you choose the poems for your anthology, read them aloud, let them sound through your own voice- or listen to your classmates reading. Poetry is the music of being human.

Another thing I used to do, as a teenager, was copy out my favourite poems in a large notebook. I didn’t think of it as ‘anthologising’ at the time, but that is exactly what is was. And I found (this was pre-computer) that writing out, say, Dylan Thomas’s Fern Hill, in my own handwriting, with my best Parker pen, also made me closer to the poem. I felt the shape of the words, or the line-lengths, tingling through my own hand. In fact, I started to write my own first poems because of this. I started to imitate my favourite poets, taking ideas from them and trying my own versions. Anthologising led me deeper into poetry... and I hope it will do the same for many of you.

When you select a poem, try typing it out yourself, rather than just photocopying. It may bring you closer to the structure and language of the poem.  You’ll see that a poem is a physical thing. One of the points, for me, of this competition, is to bring you closer to poetry, not just reading it on the page, but feeling it in your mouth and in your hands.

Choose poems which add something to the way you see or hear or feel things. This is what a good poem IS-  a small but precious addition to the world, even if its subject is difficult, or its form is challenging.

Look everywhere for your poems- from Shakespeare to poems from other cultures and in translation. Talk to your parents and grandparents and neighbours and ask them if they have suggestions. Check out your local Oxfam or Charity shops for second-hand poetry books. I’ve found some wonderful out-of-print anthologies doing that, crammed with lost treasures.

See the world through poetry. Enjoy... and good luck.