Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Shape of Things to Come - Poetry in e-form

NEW YORK — Billy Collins, one of the country's most popular poets, had never seen his work in e-book form until he recently downloaded his latest collection on his Kindle.

He was unpleasantly surprised.

"I found that even in a very small font that if the original line is beyond a certain length, they will take the extra word and have it flush left on the screen, so that instead of a three-line stanza you actually have a four-line stanza. And that screws everything up," says Collins, a former U.S. poet laureate whose "Ballistics" came out in February.

When he adjusted the size to large print, his work was changed beyond recognition, a single line turning into three, "which is quite distressing," he adds.

To me and I would presume most other poets, the way words appear upon the printed page is so vital to the integrity of the work. For the formatting to shift and create new line configurations is like printing a picture of the Mona Lisa in a book with the left side on a right handed page and the right side on the flip side. Who in their right mind would do that?

Admittedly I am very visual orientated when it comes to poetry. I do enjoy going to readings as well as giving readings but I place a very high premium upon seeing the words on a page. The idea of such formatting issues in e-books is a very big turnoff to me.


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