The Poetry Problem

What to do with the white space? This is a good conversation to have, and I think I’ve probably had versions of this conversation with Cleaver Magazine, and other journals. I love, love, love playing with space in a poem because it’s another tool you can use to influence cadence, but I also know it’s risky to send these poems to online journals. I hate that journals might reject a poem just because of formatting, and I worry that if all poems are flush-left in a magazine it will be stultifying in the long run. Some poems just don’t sound their best unless you play with the white space. Still, editors have to respect the limits of their publishing programs. What do you think? Does the look of the poem influence where you send it online?

Editors' Blog!

magnetic fridge poetryHEY POETS, did you know that your spacing decisions can affect your chances of being published successfully in online literary magazines?
Most writers, poets included, create and distribute their work on word processing software such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs. It’s what we’ve always done. These programs are great for viewing work on our computers and for making print-outs, but they don’t play well with online publishing platforms like WordPress (on which our site is built), Drupal, Joomla, and others.

This is a software and design problem that many poets are unaware of. And it could be the reason certain poems you submit to online publications are rejected or end up being published in a different-looking format from what you intended.

What’s this ‘white space a problem’? The word processing programs we writers use to create poems make it easy for us to spread text across a page, just as we used to do on a typewriter. Just tap the space…

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One thought on “The Poetry Problem

  1. More journals should publish (make public) their platform and its options and limitations. If a journal only accepts poems that are left-justified, it should say so. It’s more work for everybody to play a guessing game of “can I indent this stanza?”

    Plus, announcing the limitations (technical or editorial) ahead of time gives everyone reasonable boundaries in which to explore. That 60-line epic poem of the American West? Probably not interesting to Boston Sonnets Quarterly. The concrete poem in the shape of a wagon wheel? Not a good pick for a journal that wants everything left-justified.

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