Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Markup your poem!


Seeing an announcement of a new poetry e-publication brought to mind that it is interesting that some poets still do not make their collections available in versions with ebook readers in mind.

Looking at Poetry Foundation website, and at the Page Source for the poem "Howl" for example, you see the lines marked up like this:

<div style='text-indent: -1em; padding-left: 1em;'>with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless balls, </div>
<div style='text-indent: -1em; padding-left: 1em;'>incomparable blind streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the motionless world of Time between, </div>
<div style='text-indent: -1em; padding-left: 1em;'>Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind, </div>


— so that when you see this poem, whether on a iPad, NOOK, or even smaller screen iPod Touch, the line breaks are taken care of.

with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless balls,
incomparable blind streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the motionless world of Time between,
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,

Without the markup, the lines would wrap without indentation and present a confusing display.

with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless balls,
incomparable blind streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the motionless world of Time between,
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,


(I've seen some poetry ebooks on my NOOK where line breaks are not handled and it looks like the above. What were the publishers thinking?)

The poet might want to change the indentation, say changing the '1' in the above example to '3':

with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless balls,
incomparable blind streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the motionless world of Time between,
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,


Just an example of how poets who want to make sure their poems look like what they want on ebook readers need to know just a few bits of markup language. Ultimately, they are responsible for how a poem looks, not the publisher.