Each year, the Mays publishes a selection of the best and most exciting new writing from students at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, ever since it first appeared in 1993.
The anthology is edited by students and is based at the University of Cambridge, published by Varsity Publications. In its early years, the Mays (formerly known as the May Anthologies, or The Mays Literary Anthology) were published as two separate volumes; one for prose and one for poetry, the publication being 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. See here for a list of previous guest editors.
Over the years, the Mays has earned a reputation for picking out the brightest new 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.