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Re: [BKARTS] Designing poetry books-

I happen to be doing quite a few poetry books now.  My wife is Penn Kemp,
who is a sound and concrete poet.

I think there is definite room for illustrations in poetry books, but they
have to pull their own weight.  Cheap stuff may be used if it is
thematically useful, but simply mining the cut catalogues is a fairly
limiting procedure.  We tend to use original art done by
associates.  Because I do book design specifically for desk top production,
I can use as much colour as I like.  With the exception of one rather fun
book which used colour on every page, I generally tend to limit it to
occasional plates and accents.

What's the point?  Well, I find that heavily illustrated poetry often loses
the poems.  It seems to become more described art than illustrated
poetry.  However, I am going to give this form a try someday.  In the mean
time, I use the illustrations to relieve the monochromatic flow of the
lines: to break up the page turning a bit.  Poetry needs a bit more time to
consider each stanza, each poem.  White space can do the same thing.  It
can be used simply to set off a thematic entity, or to denote a break of
some sort.  If you are setting small forms like haiku, it can be effective
to set a single poem on a page, and an illustration can give an additional
hint to the imagery apparatus without being heavy and cloying.

One of the key differences between short poetic forms and long narratives
like most prose is this matter of flow.  In the case of short poetry, you
don't want the flow to be uninterrupted.  The opposite is true of long
forms, especially prose.  One of the differences between prose and poetry
is that prose uses throwaway words to set off more emphasized
passages.  Poetry rarely does this: every word and phrase is intended to be
absorbed deeply.  So the pace of reading is very different.  Prose may
depend on the pace of the flow for effect.  Poetry often does also, but the
reader is intended to go back and pick up the dropped phrases at leisure.
So the linearity is not intended to be preserved indefinitely.  Hence
illustrations a digressions can be effective.

That's all I have time for at present.  God bless all,  Gavin

Gavin Stairs
Gavin Stairs Fine Editions
525 Canterbury Road
London, Ontario
Canada   N6G 2N5

telephone: (519) 434-8555.
email: stairs@stairs.on.ca

Gavin Stairs Fine Editions is a small, computer press specializing in book
design and fine, hand-made books.

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