Creating a Poetry Anthology

We love poetry. We bask in poetry. We get a zip and a zing out of every carefully-carved word and a shiver shoots up our collective editorial spine when we hit the slyly-sprung pause.

Big money, no. Screenplay-adaptability, be damned. It’s a real thrill to find an excellent poetry collection like Boomer Girls: Poems by Women From the Baby Boom Generation (University of Iowa Press). Editors Pamela Gemin and Paula Sergi talked with Writer’s Digest a bit about how they assembled this beautiful collection of talented poets.

Writer’s Digest: How did you put together this poetry collection?

Paula Sergi: We looked through single-author books, looking for coming-of-age poetry, and then did a call for submissions. After that, we sorted out the poetry that could stand on its own. Often editors each pick the poems themselves, so that they have different points of view, but for Boomer Girls, we both had to agree on a poem to accept it.

WD: Each of the poems included in this collection seems very accessible.

PS: We thought of the book as telling a story, and narrative poetry does this best. We didn’t actually start as “let’s just look at narrative,” but that’s what people mostly sent us.

Pamela Gemin: The poetry in Boomer Girls sounds like a conversation; it has the vernacular, it’s invitational, you’re invited in.

WD: Why did you have specific topical content in mind?

PG: The stories are quite representative and transcend the era. My favorite thing to do is talk to women of other generations. Last week I talked to teenagers who were blown away, who said “to think of my mother going through that!” I like the way it transcends class and race barriers and I like how it goes from childhood through middle age.

Small Gods by Dorianne Laux

I thought my father was a god,
like all the other fathers down the block, floating
home in their gleaming cars filled with food
and thunder, manna and a terrible noise.
And the mothers were lesser gods, fragile
in their thin robes, their hair
so many multicolored clouds.
And we were small, barely human, huddled
half-naked like puppies on a rug, bathed
in the blue TV light, trying to be good.
We watched them from the corners of our eyes
as they swayed through the house on huge
fearless legs, or sat down slowly
with some large idea and a book.
I could not imagine the immense thoughts
they carried in their heads, their hearts
pumping like heavy machinery.
And maybe this was how it had to be, their silence
a rigid religion, a state of eternal grace
we could never know.
And of the animals I tended through those years,
skinny white mice and shivering birds, dogs
with their browbeaten eyes, the cat
who stared back at me with the glazed green irises
of an idiot savant. What did I know
of their terrors, their souls? Like the child I was,
I simply gave them names and fed them.
Day after day, I watched them grow.

Used with permission from Bommer Girls: Poems by Women from the Baby Boom Generation (University of Iowa Press). Available in bookstores or by calling 800/621-2736.

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