Friday, 20 August 2010

Anthologising

I'm absorbed in my favourite period at Litfest over the next few weeks: anthologising and editing. We have finally made the choice of who will be in the anthology but not quite which of their poems.

My chief approach as editor is of cutting: both of the poems we select from original submissions, and of lines in those poems. I have a story about this, that when I heard made me feel quite benign in the scheme of things. Robert Crawford's latest book is called Full Volume. Because he had intended it to be a big fat volume of poems. His editor saw it differently. And now the volume comes from the potency of the poems' voice left in the book rather than their weight. Back to that old adage: less is more.

It is a tricky balance to strike - the poems are not mine, and nor do I want them to be. My intent as editor is to set a varied selection of work to rub up against each other, so illuminating the different voices that carry the reader through idiosyncratic landscapes and experiences. But I'd say a good editor enables the work to become more individual, more true to the writer's voice. Letting their light shine. And this means going back again and again to the poems themselves, and keeping myself out of them - asking how they stand alone, in sequence with each other and within the anthology as a whole. So it's a case of wood trees wood trees perspective. A merry dance in and out of the light.

And while I'm dancing (hopefully with the writers as fine partners) I'm also storing up images and ideas for the title and overall design of the piece. So far all our anthologies are pdfs and so allowed a lovely scape of images through the text, hopefully enhancing the onscreen reading experience, as well as exploring the underlying themes that hold the anthology together. The hardest decision is the title of the anthology and we normally have to go through a whole bunch of really bad ones before landing on the one that fits perfectly: in tone, image and poetry. Right now we have a sheaf of paper with a host of scribbled ideas - the bad ones that miraculously should transform into the all singing all dancing ONE in the next few days.

Wish them luck!

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