The Problems of Non-Concrete Poetry Where Placement on the F^*%ing Page Matters in the Context of Electronic Publishing

Okay, so a while back I was talking about concrete poetry, a poem that looks like the subject it is about and I gave my pear poem as an example. That form translates off the page and into the world of electronic publishing with no problems because most platforms will allow you to center your text. Unfortunately, as I have been working to prepare my upcoming book, Icons & Action Figures (Batteries Not Included), for e-publishing this spring, I have come across some annoying problems.

sandy01

It turns out that although I rarely write concrete poetry, I do from time to time tab words and phrases away from the regular text line to suggest, say, fog or leaves or, in the example I am thinking of, foxes bouncing around a restaurant. “Fox Games” is one of my favorite poems because I achieved something that I love managing: conveying with words on the page the colors and dynamism and message and story that I see in a piece of visual art (ekphrasis).

sandy03

The poem is based on a photo of an installation of the same name by artist, Sandy Skoglund. I attach the whole picture and some close ups to show the details of this vivid masterpiece.

I originally wrote the poem in two styles, alternating between sections with regular lines and sections about the foxes, where words or phrases mimicked on the page what the foxes were doing all over the print. To reproduce the effect without being able to do anymore that left-justify or center the pieces is impossible; I might be able to manage that here in a blog post, but if you try messing with styles in an e-book, you end up with…well, a mess. So I am stuck with only left-justification. So I had to choose to go for only the sound of the action, rather than sound, look and feel. Sigh. But I still love the poem. Here is the second half of it:

He begins to speak of himself. She can’t help looking at him,

imagining his face in forty years of soft folds, his voice

crinkling newsprint. Time, she thinks,

fades us to this grey. Time,

she thinks, her face blank pink attention. There is never enough

time to learn to speak in color. There’s so much we can’t say

with our bodies. We need

these foxes

jumping

.

on tables

.

playing

at tearing out

each other’s throats

.

crimson

foxes

dancing

.

among grey tablecloths

grey baskets

grey bread

.

while we sit in our grey corner speaking of the blush

of the wine about to be poured out by our waiter in his grey vest,

wine that holds itself back, corked for rational inspection, grey

bottled up, wine that knows itself

crimson

playful

ready to bark

and bite.

Skoglund, Sandy. “Fox Games.” Cibachrome print. 1990.

Spilecki, Susan. “Fox Games.” Kimera. June 2001

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