By and large, there are two kinds of anthologies. There are the programmatic ones that set out to offer a selection of poems having a degree of cultural overlap, and are in some way representative of a larger body of work sharing the circumstances which affected their production. For instance, national anthologies (Irish, Welsh, Australian, American poetry) are of this type, as are anthologies of poetry of a particular period, or of poems written by poets under forty, or by women poets, or by war poets. Such selections can set out to make a case about the body of work they sample. They might introduce, identify or redefine a literary movement (Al Alvarez's The New Poetry, Michael Roberts' Faber Book of Modern Verse). Even at their most modest, they can aspire to be good text books for teaching purposes. But anthologies of poems defined by their subject matter (a book of love poems, of landscape poetry, of poems about animals) are always going to be rather factitious; one might just as reasonably compile a book of poems beginning with the letter K. But not to worry: all the editor has to do is to offer us some good poems rubbing shoulders with each other between the covers, and all we have to do is bear in mind that it is the individual poems that matter.Indeed, some of the best recent anthologies are just of this factitious kind: Paul Muldoon's Faber Book of Beasts, Heaney and Hughes' The Rattle bag.
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