Saturday, 15 August 2020

Gearing up and Down Sizing

The schools have started back and we're in that transition period where the scheduling begins, the afternoons fill with hobbies and lessons and we shuffle them around until we can manage. My morning are quieter, but without a flow yet. I am still running around and catching up on errands, so haven't found a rhythm to fit my poetry in regularly. And being a substitute I'm always slightly on edge waiting for the phone to break into the silence. My interview is also coming up this week, so it's nipping at the edge of my mind as well. 

One thing I've started this week is reviewing my poems in consideration of an A5 page size. Suna Afshan at Poetry Birmingham Journal made an off-the-cuff remark on Twitter asking those  submitting to stop formatting poems in A4 docs. It caused a flurry of tweets of confusion, ah ha moments, discussion and it got me thinking. Print magazines and collections do mostly print in A5 or a similar size, so it makes sense. Though most also seem to ask for submissions in A4 (even PBJ), so maybe the industry needs to rethink things as well. 

I do often look at potential collections from that format, but I have never considered using that size to type my poems from the beginning. So it's thrown my work in disarray. I've changed all my potential collections and my rough draft files to A5 and am looking at how it changes the lay-out of the poems. I'm not rewriting many yet, but it is making me see things differently. 

I've noticed my newer poems do run shorter and fit in A5 comfortably for the most part, but my upcoming collection is mostly older poems and is sitting at over the page limit at the moment. I need to find out what size and style of font my publisher uses. I don't mind splitting a poem over two pages if necessary, but three or four lines dangling over looks wrong. I'm unsure what to do about those extra 5 pages I've suddenly gained.

Of course, for online magazines it's less of an issue. Magazines and competitions usually specify A4 and around a 40 line limit, but my lay-out is running about 28 lines to a page (2cm margins top and bottom, 11pt Arial font for text and a 16pt title.) One of the benefits of being trained in editing at a small magazine is I learned little tricks to make a poem fit on a page, how to lay out a book so it looks good, but I won't be able to do that with my collection being published.  

It's a small thing really, but I feel better using the A5 format from now on. I'll still write my poems first in my notebook, not caring about length or format, but it will be a consideration when editing and designing collections. And, of course, I'm definitely not suggesting that poets should write to please editors and to fit publications, but it helps to know how a poem will look on the page and if we're using A4 as our template the printed product may not look how we imagined. 

I'm also trying to get back into reviewing and reading poetry collections, so I read a few poems every night before bed, the one time I can be sure I have time. I have turned back to Fiona Benson's Vertigo and Ghost which I started last year. This is one of those collections I wish I had written, but not lived. Such beautiful writing that tears me apart emotionally. Even the more gentle ones about parenthood and the poet's fears connected with raising her girls in this difficult world when other mothers are leading their children through unimaginable dangers in the hope of finding safety and shelter dig into all my tender places. But Part One which is considers the mythology of Zeus in modern terms, as a serial rapist, is more of a punch to the throat. Benson plays with the words on the page, mixing modern language with ancient stories and uses a kind of interview format to give voices to the victims, Io, Callisto and others, as well as bragging, bravado-puffed Zeus. It goes much further than Yeats' 'Leda and the Swan'. Difficult to read as it doesn't shy from blunt emotion and descriptions, it is an important voice in these times when 'Me Too' is not a thing you wish to say, but it needs to be heard. 

I've been commissioned to write a review for a poetry collection late in the autumn, but more about that later. 

I'm off to edit and later enjoy some late summer sun. 

No comments:

Post a comment