Saturday, January 01, 2011

Poetry and the ebook.

I don't think books are ever going to go out of style. One of the main joys of poetry is to look through books that you own, and find the poems that you appreciate. Everything about the tangible part of poetry is important, including the condition of the book, the typeface, the design, and on and on. Poetry, writing, and any kind of deep thought and creation of new words requires access to the written word, and the format of the paper book is not something that can be replicated by one device. There's room in the world for both approaches, of course. I'm not an ebook hater. But people that think that soon all books will be going into the junk heap are not really thinking clearly. Either that or they never read books, which is a shame for them, for what they are missing.
I keep wishing I had a copy of James Joyce's "Chamber Music" and "Pomes Penyeach" for the spare format of those collections. I can read some of the poems online, but it is nothing compared to when I had the actual book to read. I think I got that one out of Doe Library at Berkeley. Something about the paper of certain poetry books focuses your mind on the seriousness of the approach of the author. I am thinking in particular of Robinson Jeffers' book "Roan Stallion, Tamar, and other poems", now out of print. It has an excellent typeface, and a little introduction by the author describing a walk through the woods and some impressions of the weather near Carmel. One line from one poem, I remember reading in a coffeehouse in Portland in 1995. "Great enough both accepts and subdues, the great frame takes all creatures." That line had a big effect for some reason. If I had read it on a Kindle I would have no book to associate those poems with.

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