Having now finished editing The Anthropocene Hymnal, I can certainly say that I have learned a lot about the editing process. Anyone who writes a blog or owns a website will be familiar with editing their own work. I am prone to making typos, so I always try to remember to run my text through a language check tool before hitting publish. It doesn’t matter how many times I read through my own work, if my brain knows how it should sound, it assumes the text is right. If you do notice typos in my work I invite you to tell me (politely please!) in the comments section of the offending post.
I find it much easier to proofread other people’s work than my own. I am far more likely to spot errors if I don’t know what to expect from the text I am reading. That said, my contributing authors made very few typos as far as I could see (far fewer than I could expect myself to make!) So after doing my own proofread, I sent all proofs to the authors to make their final checks. The finished manuscript will be subject to further proofreading by some very kind volunteers who will be the first to read the text of the anthology.
Checking for typos is one thing, but what about the finer points of presentation about which there is no real consensus in poetry? After writing ‘Capitalisation Controversy,’ I became sensitive to the fact that some poets capitalise at the start of each line, and others don’t. I was in the former category until I started to take notice of this, and now my eyes stick on my line-heading capitals, so I have done away with them.
Until I started work on the anthology, it did not occur to me that every poet has their own particular approach to capitalisation. Some capitalise every word of a title, for example. Others only capitalise nouns, or proper nouns. Others prefer not to use capitals at all, including at the start of stanzas or new sentences within a poem.
Rather than try to standardise the entire manuscript, I preferred to respect individual authorial practice within each poem. If I thought a particular author had misplaced a capital, for example, where I would not expect it in their work, I corrected according to their standard practice and offered this up in the proof. Overall, I looked for consistency within each poem, rather than across the anthology as a whole. I’ve explained this here just to illustrate the kind of sensitivity required of an editor of a multi-author anthology.
Order of poems
Though such editorial standards as detailed above are important, even more important to me was the correct ordering of the poems within the manuscript. The Anthropocene Hymnal is meant to tell a story and carry a message. Certain poems sat well together, one leading naturally into the next. In this way, an overarching order emerged. This order then needed some final tweaks just to make sure the finished sound was exactly right.
Rest assured, the collection has been very carefully curated. I read and re-read each poem until I was familiar not just with the words, but with the sound of the words, and how these sounds sang together through the anthology as a whole. I like to imagine that in this way, compiling a poetry anthology is something like compiling an album of music. Remember that this is a hymnal after all.
The manuscript is now with a book designer to give a polished, professional look to the finished product. I am extremely grateful to artist and poet Kerfe Roig for providing the cover art.
Stay tuned for further details including cover reveal, release date, and details of contributors. I am excited and privileged to be able to share my publishing journey with you.