Every anthology creates a community and tells a story about it. Here are these texts and these
authors, it says, and they matter.
The story an anthology tells is always a reduction, a simplification, almost or truly a fiction. But
then, so is every other story we tell. It's a big world, and books are small.
Selection, like comparison, may be odious but is unavoidable.
For every anthology, there is at least one author whose omission from the anthology knowing
readers will consider unconscionable. This author will vary among knowing readers.
I dislike the phrase "when I was young," but when I was young and a would-be writer, there
was no anthology of Mennonite poetry. There were a few Mennonites who wrote, but there was
no useable Mennonite literary tradition.
Now there are many Mennonites writing, and enough of a literary tradition that we can begin to
argue about it. That is not quite a miracle, but pretty close. God is good.
One of the main uses of a literary tradition is to give us something interesting to argue about.
To develop a literary culture requires many different kinds of work besides the work of
imaginative writing. Reading (often overlooked), reviewing, writing criticism, teaching, and
editing are all necessary.
If undertaken with zest, high spirits, a certain reckless seriousness and all the joy and
trepidation one can muster, all of these are creative acts.
The literary enterprise is not a contest. Well, of course it is--but not a zero-sum contest. There
are many ways an author or a poem can succeed, and even more ways to fail. To succeed at
writing--or even to fail--can, and should, be of help to others.
To quote Robert Frost, as my teacher Nick Lindsay loved to do: "It's not serious. Just a matter
of life and death."
Two things my children taught me:
Trying to force people to eat what does not taste good to them makes for difficult
Sometimes tastes change.
An anthology may be best considered as one conversation that creates opportunities for further