What's in a line? That which we call a line
By any other view might look less sweet.
example, if you're reading this post on a phone or some other small screen,
then you might not see the line break that falls between "call a line"
and "By any other," and you might see other line breaks that aren't supposed to be there. That's a bigger mess when the poem gets longer than two lines, as in electronic books of poetry. Publishers Weekly has an excellent
article by Craig
Morgan Teicher about the difficulty of showing poetic lines in electronic
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Saturday, March 17, 2012
A journal doesn’t need to be beautiful, though if it is, that’s cool. It just needs to look interesting, to look as if someone cared. Anything beyond that is cool too, but more than the minimum journal requirement. As I went from table to table at AWP, two kinds of ugly journals stood out. When the bright white paper is so overly white and bright that it shines like an interrogation lamp, then it’s a loser in my eyes (or blog). A journal also falls apart, in my eyes (or book or blog), if it looks like an ordinary computer printout. You can do any kind of design with a Mac, or so I suppose, and I love Macs, but the hard work of writing and editing can go for naught when a journal looks as if were made by an unadventurous amateur on a Mac—in 1995.
That’s not to say things have to get fancy and pricey. Imaginative designers sometimes do just as well on a small (or smallish) budget as on a big budget, and sometimes they do better, since big budgets can lead to overproduction.
Apart from the way bright white paper and the unwittingly vintage Mac dullness, things looked eclectic, and some of the journals were gorgeous or epi-cool. They ranged from handmade to glossy, but usually they came in at dozens of quirky or tastefully understated places between those extremes. I also got a kick out of the t-shirts emblazoned with expressions like “Forthcoming” or “Pushcart Nominee.” I got a kick out of talking with editors and running into friends. But I didn’t wear my nametag. I don’t like trying (or seeming to try) to push myself on editors. I’d rather let the work make its own path (or cul de sac). I’m not sure I got a kick out of the poetry readings on little video screens in the Hilton elevators, but I got a kick out of watching people in the elevators listen to them or mock them or try to ignore them. Some of the elevators gave people a scare by wobbling. Maybe some of these things will end up in a story or a novel (or a blog).
Many editors or their assistants worked hard to drum up interest or conversation. I had fun with the banter. But at one journal I like very much, the lone person behind the table buried their head in a book. Even when I stopped at the table, they didn’t look up. I was so stunned that I couldn’t bring myself to interrupt their reading and say hello. Maybe they were just filling in while the actual editor headed to the washroom or a panel or ate lunch. That would explain it.
Here’s an idea. I’ll dig up the editor’s name online and Google image them to see if it was the person behind the table, and surely it won’t be. Here goes: Suspense.
Did it. And it really was the editor of the journal. Maybe they were under the Chicago weather. Why travel a long way at great expense and set up a beautiful table (and it was a beautiful table) to show your wonderful journal and then work so hard to avoid all contact with people? I’m not trying to be flip: I really wonder what this person was thinking and bet that it would be interesting to hear this person’s off-the-track perspective. I should have asked if it was a good book.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
When we parted ways at the end of our previous installment of the AWP saga, dear reader, we were, as you may recall, about to blog about the AWP book and journal exhibits.
No room at the Chicago Hilton was big enough for the several solar systems of exhibits, so you had to move from giant room to giant room through a warren of stairways and halls that kept me wondering whether I’d really found all the rooms. One enormous room of exhibits looks pretty much like another enormous room of exhibits, and one row of exhibits looks pretty much like another row (until you look at the individual tables, of course), so you find yourself accidentally circling back to places you’ve already circled through. But I just flew with the flow, going up and down every row and letting myself wander this way and that way until I felt pretty certain I had joined the crazy few who actually saw the whole thing.
I loved the exhibits. I focused on looking at journals. Usually, I passed quietly by journals I already know well, even when I subscribe to them. I was looking for journals I didn’t know at all or didn’t know well. It amazes me that people still keep inventing new paper journals. When editors asked “How you doing?” and I said I was having a great time, some of them expressed surprise. I guess some people felt overwhelmed and answered the question with moaning and whining. Maybe the moaners worry about what they see as competition from such a horde of other writers, or maybe they can’t handle crowds, writers or not, but I found the crowds exhilarating. All those people who love reading and writing—how can you beat that? I truly did have a great time, even though, as the journal editors chatted, now and then I had to force myself not to say what I really thought.
So here’s what I didn’t say. Some of those journals—they’re ugly.
Some people must think it doesn’t matter what a journal of words looks like, but I love looking at journals as well as reading them. I didn’t see other people (though there must have been some) standing at the booths and actually reading the journals, but that didn’t stop me, and sometimes it was fun to chat with editors about the poems they had published. They work so hard on their magazines that sometimes they seemed to get a kick out of seeing a live reader reading and then hearing what that reader thinks. And it’s just as interesting for me to hear how the editors think.
Anyway, I’m not alone in thinking that it matters what a journal looks like. Some of them are ugly, but lots of them look great, in all sorts of ways. Since I didn’t see anyone else standing at the booths and reading, that indicates all the more how much difference the look makes, because the look is all you get if you don’t read and until you do read. The reputation of a journal, and even its self-definition, often depend on its visual design more than on the words on the page or screen. Some of the supposedly edgiest journals, both in their self-proclamations and in what others say about them, turn out to read like fairly ordinary or traditional stuff, but they look snarly or cool, artsy or au courant, and that makes their buzz.
Next installment: how some journals muff their design.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
I had the chance and so, why not, I took the chance and went to AWP this year. Now—and as promised the other day (below)—I’ll blog about it. What’s AWP? It may look like a barbaric yawp from Whitman, but as some readers may know it’s the contrived but conveniently simple acronym for the Association of Writers andWriting Programs. They do an assortment of things that associations do, and they hold an annual conference. So for here and now, at least, “the AWP” means their big conference of writers, publishers, editors, and other people interested in writing. This year they met in Chicago. The AWP hosts readings as well as panels for writers and others to talk about more or less anything related to writing or, more specifically, to so-called creative writing. Or so you might hope—though I was disappointed to find no panels (at least this year) on avant-garde (or whatever you want to call it) poetry (or whatever you want to call it).
What do 10,000 writers look like? I was surprised not to be surprised. They looked like anyone else. On the street, I couldn’t tell who were the writers and who were the ordinary Chicagoans, unless they sported AWP paraphernalia (a book bag with advertising, a name badge that too chummily put the last name in smaller print, making the badge more or less useless, a program that weighed too much). I expected lots of showy dressers, but nope. Also, the writers came in every age, but disproportionately they were older than I expected. Maybe when you come in all ages the now grey boomers overwhelm the series of post-boomer boomlets. Maybe boomers more often had access to the moolah it might take to go to a conference, especially during the recession.
I could talk about the panels, but that might get more personal about the panelists than I want to get here (fun though it might be). Some panels were good, some were bad, some were in between—no surprises there. For me, the surprises came in a torrent at the amazing book and journal exhibits, and that’s what I’ll take up in our next installment, forthcoming soon (as they say in book and journal lingo). Check back in a couple days or so.
Posted by R. D. Parker at 11:10 AM
Sunday, March 4, 2012
Without changing a word, I redesigned the blog layout. The new design is more contemporary. Maybe it’s a bit less edgy, but it’s readable and eye-friendly. Many of the best newer web designs seem eye-friendly, and that’s what I went for. Here’s a screen grab of the old grey design. It was cool, understated, but blocky and bland.
Posted by R. D. Parker at 4:37 PM
I think I’m going to blog AWP. In installments. Unless I change my mind, since I’m not an AWP type, whatever that is. What’s AWP? If you have to ask, then you’re not an AWP type either, but I’ll explain. So check back before long—lots of good stuff coming soon.
Posted by R. D. Parker at 12:24 PM