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Old 07-05-2009, 05:07 PM   #1
Eric Ladner
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Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Oakland, CA
Posts: 139
Default Designing for poetry

Years ago, in the Forum's Compuserve days, Kathleen offered some good suggestions on designing pages for poetry. I even saw a copy of a printout of that message recently, and now that I need it, I can't find it.

I'm actually working again on the same project that led to my inquiry then, getting it off the shelf and dusting it off. It's purely a labor of love (my late mother's poetry), and will probably be printed as only a few dozen copies for family and friends. For now, at least, I'm allowing myself the luxury of trying to make it look the way I want it to, rather than what a publishing budget might allow.

The poems range from sonnets, to villanelles, to multi-page free narrative, to haiku. [I found the haiku only recently, and haven't really decided how to handle them. They're so different from the rest that I'm thinking of emphasizing the difference, putting several on a page, in a narrower column than the rest of the book, so they're closer to the center of the page horizontally. Although it just occurred to me that each one alone in the center of a page might be interesting, too.]

I've pretty much stolen a page design from a book of poems that I particularly admire the look of. My problem is what to do about the occasional line or title that is too long for the text block, or, worse the entire poem that is too wide.

I know I don't want to use tracking to push or pull overruns. I've done a first pass in 12-point Arno Pro, but I've used InDesign's character and paragraph styles, so changing it is relatively straightforward. A narrower face, or a smaller size would fix most of the problems, but I like the way especially the shorter poems look.

Allowing two-line titles would be the simplest solution there, although I'm also considering letting title be wider than the rest of the page.

Since there's no question of all pages being the same length, I'm happy to fix a line or two that break to a new page by pushing a few more lines, or a whole stanza, if that suits the text best.

But those two or three poems that are just a little too wide for the page are a problem. A whole page with single-word lines doesn't look very nice.

So far as I can see the possibilities are:

Narrower or smaller type;
Change the width of all the pages;
Change the width of just the problem pages;
Force line breaks at places that give a less choppy look.

I apologize for rambling so, and I really don't expect point by point answers. Any suggestions anyone has will be quite welcome, though.

Many thanks!
Eric
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