Thanks to Paul Vermeersch for pointing out this article on his website. Billy Collins and some other well known American poets weigh in on the match between poetry and the eBook. At this point in the eReader’s development, specific poetic elements, such as punctuation, line breaks, and spacing, cannot be accurately related. Often a poem viewed on a screen will appear completely different from its print counterpart.
“I found that even in a very small font that if the original line is beyond a certain length, they will take the extra word and have it flush left on the screen, so that instead of a three-line stanza you actually have a four-line stanza. And that screws everything up,” says Collins, a former U.S. poet laureate whose “Ballistics” came out in February.
When he adjusted the size to large print, his work was changed beyond recognition, a single line turning into three, “which is quite distressing,” he adds.
For myself, I think prose will work fine on an eReader, such as the Kobo, and my experience with the reader has been very positive. At the moment, I am attempting to read Simon Armitage’s Selected Poems on the eReader, only to find all lines double spaced and long lines continuing on into the next line without proper indentation. I can still read the text and get the main meaning from it, but I’m missing out on the nuances of the work. Also, as a matter of personal preference, it’s annoying to read a poem and have to infer how it is supposed to be presented rather than actually viewing it as it was meant to be seen. EReaders have a ways to go yet, it seems.