Sunday 9th March


Each year, the Mays publishes the best new writing and visual arts from students at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

The anthology is edited by students and is based at the University of Cambridge, published by Varsity Publications. Founded in 1992, the May Anthologies were originally published as two separate volumes - one for prose and one for poetry - but the publication was amalgamated into a single volume in 2003.

The Mays is broader in scope than most university literary projects: it is sold in bookstores and by delivery nationwide. Each year a guest editor - usually a prominent author, poet or artist - writes an introduction to the anthology, and previous guest editors have included Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney, Margaret Drabble and Philip Pullman.

Over the years, the Mays has earned a reputation for picking out the brightest literary talent. Nick Laird was a former student editor, and the Mays is also widely credited for launching the career of novelist Zadie Smith. Literary agencies first took notice of Smith after seeing her story 'Mrs. Begum's Son and the Private Tutor' in the 1997 collection. When Smith returned to guest-edit the Mays in 2001, her quip 'maybe in a few years this lot will have me out of a job' subsequently became something of a catch phrase for the publication.