Your final assignment asks you to design and sell an anthology of at least 20 poems by at least 4 poets. All the poems you choose must already be published; online journals are fine, but personal blogs aren’t sufficient. Assume copyright and royalties are not an issue.

As we have been discussing, the way editors select and arrange poems constitutes an argument–not just about which poems are worth reading, but also about the criteria by which we should judge them. Further, an anthology serves a purpose distinct from the individual poets’ goals. It might be a teaching aid (like The Making of a Poem), commemorate a milestone (like The Open Door), or lay claim to a distinctive poetic “school.” It might also be targeted toward readers at a particular stage in life, for example, graduation, weddings, or bereavement. For a general sense of what’s out there, check out Great Poetry Anthologies, compiled by the Academy of American Poets, or browse the shelves at a real or virtual bookstore.


Due Monday, April 15 and worth 5% of your final grade.

In a formal letter of about 2 pages, “pitch” your anthology as though to a real publisher. Include the appropriate editor’s name, address, etc., and:

  • A catchy description of your proposed anthology.
  • Why this book deserves to be published. Demonstrate that it fills a gap in the market: If you want to create a collection for classroom use, how will it be different from The Making of a Poem or The Norton Anthology of Poetry? If you want to focus on, for example, African-American poets from the early twentieth century, you will need to distinguish your collection from Alain Locke’s The New Negro and Maureen Honey’s Shadowed Dreams: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance.
  • Why you should be the one to edit it. Convince the publisher of your expertise, unique perspective, credentials, etc. (Feel free to be creative.)
  • Why this publisher is the right one for the job. This requires you to demonstrate your familiarity with the publisher’s back catalogue. A press devoted to experimental work, like Coach House, probably doesn’t have the resources to promote a new book to elementary school teachers; a large multinational publisher, like Farrar Straus Giroux, is less likely to take a risk on a book with a narrow target audience. Some publishers have long traditions of publishing certain kinds of poetry, such as New Directions for American modernism.
  • For more information on the genre of the book proposal, see Kenneth Henson’s Writing for Professional Publishing (excerpt on e-reserves), Poets & Writers magazine’s guidelines for Publishing Your Book, or Purdue OWL’s guide to writing book proposals.

    As for choosing a publisher, try browsing in a library or bookstore. You can also explore the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses‘ directory, or Poetry Book Publishers: USA (compiled by Brian Grove at My Perfect Pitch).



    Due Monday, April 29 May 6 and worth 10% of your final grade.

  • Cover page. You can draw, paint, photograph, or compose it from images from books or the Internet. I do not expect you to have the skills of a professional artist or graphic designer, but I do expect you to put some thought into the title and composition. For inspiration, check out the Book Cover Archive’s poetry page, the New York Timesfavorite book covers of 2012 or Flavorwire’s list of the 20 most iconic book covers of all time.
  • Table of contents: at least 20 poems by at least 4 poets, ordered as you please.
  • Introduction (6-10 pp.). In language appropriate to the target audience (or parents and teachers, if your book is for kids), provide an overview of the poets, movements, forms, relevant historical and cultural context, etc. The introduction should explain your principle of selection (why these poems, in this order?) and draw attention to the way the poems speak to one another. Try to strike a balance between the big picture and specific examples.
  • Bibliography. Include a list of sources you consulted in preparing the introduction. There should be at least 3.
  • I will grade the anthology based on originality of concept, whether your communication with the editor and the audience is realistic and persuasive, and the level of insight you bring to the individual poems and the process of compiling them.


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