Anthologies – Accessibility and Reach: Something for Everyone

by | Oct 9, 2023 | IBBYLink Summer/Autumn 2023

Gaby Morgan

‘One’ by James Berry


Only one of me
and nobody can get a second one
from a photocopy machine.


Nobody has the fingerprints I have.
Nobody can cry my tears, or laugh my laugh
or have my expectancy when I wait.


But anybody can mimic my dance with my dog.
Anybody can howl how I sing out of tune.
And mirrors can show me multiplied
many times, say, dressed up in red
or dressed up in grey.


Nobody can get into my clothes for me
or feel my fall for me, or do my running.
Nobody hears my music for me, either.


I am just this one.
Nobody else makes the words
I shape with sound, when I talk.


But anybody can act how I stutter in a rage.
Anybody can copy echoes I make.
And mirrors can show me multiplied
many times, say, dressed up in green
or dressed up in blue.

Even after 30 years, I am still grateful and delighted that I get to make and publish poetry books with brilliant, inspiring poets and editors.

At Macmillan Children’s Books we currently publish around 10 poetry titles a year – we publish titles for moments and events, like International Women’s Day, the football World Cup and Remembrance Day, books that will be particularly enjoyed in schools and big gift books. Poetry can respond very quickly to world events and trends. Over the last five years there has been a lot of emphasis on kindness and empathy, on looking after our planet and publishing poetry from under-represented groups.

‘Corrections’ by Roger Stevens


Teacher said,
Leave out the the,
Two too’s one too too many
And and after the comma
should go after the any.


The the, the too –
and move the and
and that should make it flow.
Not that that, that that’s fine –
but this that, that could go.


I said,
The the, the too, the and –
I would agree with you.
But I am very fond of that –
this that and that that too.


Which that is that?
Is that this that?
Asked teacher with a grin.
OK – but take that last in out
And leave that last out in.

I am lucky enough to be sent a lot of ideas for poetry collections, and I love talking to poets about them and exploring the best way to publish them. There is a kind of publishing magic that happens when just the right theme is matched with the perfect angle or twist. I have published at least 10 books of football poems, 6 books of Christmas poems and 15 books of school poems, but it is the extra something, the hook that a poet or anthologist brings that makes all the difference, to ensure that we are not covering the same ground again and again. It means that I can sell the idea to our in-house teams, so that they can sell the idea to bookshops and in turn the retailers can sell them to customers. It is that magic that makes children choose them.

‘Let No One Steal Your Dreams’ by Paul Cookson


Let no one steal your dreams
Let no one tear apart
The burning of ambition
That fires the drive inside your heart.


Let no one steal your dreams
Let no one tell you that you can’t
Let no one hold you back
Let no one tell you that you won’t.


Set your sights and keep them fixed
Set your sights on high
Let no one steal your dreams
Your only limit is the sky.


Let no one steal your dreams
Follow your heart
Follow your soul
For only when you follow them
Will you feel truly whole.


Set your sights and keep them fixed
Set your sights on high
Let no one steal your dreams
Your only limit is the sky.

Once we have our idea and the book is acquired, the anthologist contacts a wide group of poets, shares the concept with them and asks for submissions. For a 60-poem collection an anthologist will usually send me around 80 poems to look at. I love reading these manuscripts – every anthologist has a particular style or voice that comes through in the story they tell with the poems. Some manuscripts are perfect, but mostly they take a bit of tweaking as we try different running orders and call in a few more poems to fill any gaps. Anthologists weave their books together with great skill, and sometimes that might mean leaving out some beautiful pieces that don’t quite fit and instead searching out pieces that chime in the right way. We may have to reshuffle a book to keep it within its permissions budget and last-minute changes can often lead to stunning new discoveries.

Most of our anthologies are illustrated. We work with incredible illustrators and they bring so much to the books. Illustrations add another dimension to the book and link all the poems together. They can provide visual clues to show the reader a way into a poem or add a bit of extra context. Sometimes they just make you laugh. The visual aspect of our books is so important – children really do judge books by their covers!

We spend a lot of time talking about who we want our books to appeal to and making sure that our titles, subtitles and cover art makes them want to pick up the books.

‘Pockets’ by Ruth Awolola


Her pockets are never empty.
She says pockets are for running.
So she keeps them full,
Stuffs universes into them,
And says it is just the essentials.


She says: if we get stranded,
If aliens take us,
If there’s an apocalypse,
There will be no time for bags.


She treats pockets
Like built in spaces for hope.
Lets the weight of it
Pull down her baggy trousers.


Readies herself for any eventuality,
Revels in her own lack of normality.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of our poetry list we published The Big Amazing Poetry Book: 52 Weeks of Poetry from 52 Brilliant Poets. Each poet is showcased with seven of their poems, alongside a biography to give exciting, engaging context to their work – plus a stunning line artwork by Chris Riddell on every page. It is a warm, funny collection packed with many different styles of poetry – ballads, riddles, tongue-twisters, shape poems, haikus, sonnets and raps and includes poems by John Agard, Ruth Awolola, Gerard Benson, James Berry, Clare Bevan, Brian Bilston, Valerie Bloom, Liz Brownlee, Steven Camden, Lewis Carroll, James Carter, Charles Causley, Mandy Coe, Joseph Coelho, Dom Conlon, Paul Cookson, Pie Corbett, Shauna Darling Robertson, Jan Dean, Peter Dixon, Julia Donaldson, Carol Ann Duffy, Eleanor Farjeon, John Foster, Nikita Gill, Chrissie Gittins, Martin Glynn, Matt Goodfellow, Sue Hardy-Dawson, David Harmer, A.F. Harrold, Jenny Joseph, Jackie Kay, Ian McMillan, Wes Magee, Roger McGough, Michaela Morgan, Brian Moses, Laura Mucha, Grace Nichols, David Orme, Gareth Owen, Brian Patten, Rachel Piercey, John Rice, Coral Rumble, Roger Stevens, Nick Toczek, Kate Wakeling, Zaro Weil, Colin West and Kit Wright.

‘Colouring in’ Jan Dean

And staying inside the lines
Is fine, but . . .
I like it when stuff leaks –
When the blue bird and the blue sky
Are just one blur of blue blue flying,
And the feeling of the feathers in the air
And the wind along the blade of wing
Is a long gash of smudgy colour.
I like it when the flowers and the sunshine
Puddle red and yellow into orange,
The way the hot sun on my back
Lulls me – muddles me – sleepy
In the scented garden,
Makes me part of the picture . . .
Part of the place.

Pick up an anthology today – see the world from different perspectives, from different periods of history, meet some new poets, listen to the anthologist’s voice singing, bookmark a favourite and send one to a friend. There is always a poem that can help you express your mood or understand a moment in time – a birthday poem, a football poem, a poem to cheer you up or help you to understand how someone else is feeling. A poem can open your eyes to the world.

Anthologies cited

Berry, James (selected by) (illus. Pranita Kocharekar) (2020) Only One of Me. London: Pan Macmillan.

Bilston, Brian (selected by) (2021) 50 Ways to Score a Goal and Other Football Poems. London: Pan Macmillan.

Morgan, Gaby (chosen by) (2005) Read Me and Laugh: A Funny Poem for Every Day of the Year. London: Pan Macmillan.

— — (chosen by) (2006) Fairy Poems. London: Pan Macmillan.

— — (selected by) (2013) Poems from the First World War. London: Pan Macmillan.

— — (selected by) (illus. Chris Riddell) (2022) The Big Amazing Poetry Book: 52 Weeks of Poetry from 52 Brilliant Poets. London: Pan Macmillan.

Sampson, Ana (selected by) (2020) She is Fierce: Brave Bold and Beautiful Poems by Women. London: Pan Macmillan.


‘One’ from Only One of Me, Macmillan 2003.

‘Corrections’, Roger Stevens.

‘Let No One Steal Your Dreams’, Paul Cookson, reprinted by permission of the author.

‘Pockets’, Ruth Awolola, reprinted by permission of the author.

‘Colouring In’, from Mice on Ice, Macmillan 2004.

Gaby Morgan is an Associate Publisher at Macmillan Children’s Books and has run the children’s poetry list for 30 years. She has compiled many bestselling anthologies including The Big Amazing Poetry Book, Read Me and Laugh: A Funny Poem for Every Day of the Year, Poems from the First World War, Fairy Poems – which was shortlisted for the CLPE award – and the Macmillan Collector’s Library poetry series featuring anthologies on happiness, nature, the sea, travel and Christmas.