Gathering Flowers

Its etymology partakes of the botanical. Its practice, of specimen gathering. Who cares why?

Michael McFee in “Anthologizing” (Epoch, Volume 62, Number 1 – 2013) does.

One of Robert Pinsky’s excellent pieces of advice for young writers is: “Make your own personal anthology.” This exercise requires you to (1) read widely and carefully; (2) select thirty to fifty of your absolute favorite poems; (3) type each one of them out — a lot to ask, in these online copy-and-paste days, but a great manual way to learn things about how the poem’s words work on the page; (4) figure out how to organize them.

I’ve used this assignment a few times with my students, and added a fifth requirement: (5) write an introduction to your anthology that gives the reader an idea of why you chose and arranged as you did. The results have been most enlightening, for anthologist and teacher. Could and should “Anthologizing” be a course in creative writing programs, at whatever level, an extended and very instructive lesson in how this corner of the literary garden is tended?

Blogging differs from anthology making because of the open set nature of the serial. A blog seems more open to the aleatory. At any point there may be a divergence or the introduction of innovations (meatless recipes once a week, a run on biographies of Canadian poets, a set of notes on the art of translation, pictures of favourite bookmarks from defunct bookstores). An anthology seems closed by nature. There is an air of exclusivity hence McFee’s calls for justification of principles. Blogging demands persistence; anthology making demands insistence.

And so for day 359

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