Anthology themes

How do they go about choosing the poems to fit the various themes for the GCSE poetry anthologies? What are the criteria?

In previous years I have taught the AQA anthology but this year I am mainly teaching the Edxecel one.  Both anthologies are subdivided into clusters: Conflict, Relationships, Character and Voice and Places for AQA, and Relationships, Clashes and Collisions, Somewhere,anywhere, and Taking a Stand for Edexcel.

Imagine my surprise to find a poem that I taught under the theme of Conflict for AQA figures under the theme of Relationships for Edxecel.  Another poem that features under Character and Place for AQA ‘The Last Duchess’ by Robert Browning –  is under Relationships for Edexcel. No wonder pupils get confused! At least both boards are agreed on ‘Nettles’ by Vernon Scannell and Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 – they both are in the Relationship clusters!

‘At the border.1979’ by Choman Hardi is not a poem that I personally would have picked  at all (but that’s another blog altogether!) but it originates from the poet’s collection ‘Life for us’ that deals with the violence of war and persecution, alongside the pain of displacement. Most of the other poems in the Relationship cluster for Edexcel are about love in one guise or another. There are so many wonderful love/relationship poems old and modern, English and other cultures – why pick one that at best has to be shoe-horned into its theme?

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