App for the poet, please!

 

The poet has no home on App Store, nor in any other software.

This is mostly because no-one knows the need of poets. Take any poetry app out there at present – they all reflect the (mis)conception that poetry is all about rhyming and finding synonyms to create better poetic images, presented in a christmas tree of lines, dead centered on the page.

That is not the case. A poet often “paints” with his broken lines, not  to achieve a visual effect (even if some do), but to indicate states of mind or a concept’s placement in a mental or emotional “space”. Thus, even if readers of novels and essays and journalism on e-reader devices cherish nicely re-flowing text, poets are at the mercy of the reader and format-designer if published in a re-flowing format: Once readers re-size their font, the visual image is distorted, the poet’s lines break and shift, and his or her breath and hard work at rhythm breaks with it!

Poetry is not broken prose – and should not be seen or presented as such.

Poetry is breath and beat and rhythm and pregnant pauses, poetry
is the hand on the roller of the typewriter
a well flowing pen
pencils B and H and HB too
coloured speed-markers permanent and degradeable, poetry

is text physical, resizable
round hard soft long short like the body
length of lines and typography to suit the shifting moods, and
precision
hard precision
for the mind to excert.

A poet’s typing app should be like an instrument

easy to play, easy to tune, easy to modify.

I want an app for a poet.

Funky, easy, and build to work with typography as both fluid matter and stringent with meaning. Having been published for 25 years and working with Macs for 18, I want it yesterday.

Specifications, a beginning – and we are talking specific, extendable and expandable functionality here:

tabulation. Tabulation is not just empty space; it’s indicative of fixed pause and distance from the line break above – how long to hold the breath/tension. Spacebar tapping can do, but if you work fast, you want to be precise and not have to count 15 spacebar taps rather than pressing tabulation 3 times.

easy access to punctuation. Punctuation is the breath of the poem. All characters in punctuation are pauses of various length, pauses roughly in this order: charactersintoone, space between words, , – tab ( ) ; ” ” : . ! ? line shift  – with a variety of other pauses thrown in, like tab on new line after another character, Capital letter on new line after tab without full stop or other character etc.: Pauses are important. Teaching this, the Music of Pauses, makes some poets suddenly see their poems as scores. While others become aware of their visual leanings. Plus they never again need to remind themselves of the importance of breath.

Hard line breaks definition of what to do in a text with long lines. This could be achieved by interspacing a series of optional line-breaks, created by test-setting of larger fonts. Eg. desired result could be to place broken text at right margin at AUTHOR’s own line breaks, or at a certain distance from right margin, OR as re-flowing text, perhaps indicated by insertion of tripple space, when the line breaks, or by fixed number of tabs. And it need to be exported as code or image of the desired size and dpi.

– some poets need fixed placing of words for their poetry. Thus a monospaced font could be desired as option. Even if most poets are aware of the visual representation of their poem, you could say some poets are more visually demanding in their approach to writing than most writers. The shape of the text becomes important, thus line-spacing is important. Preferably in points with decimals or what is possible in (easy) code. Kerning would probably be asking for too much, but still.

– re-sizing individual characters. For those visually inclined. And here an approximation to fluid  line-spacing makes sence

typewriter. if you could ROLL the page up and down and sideways, while tapping the keyboard (eg. looking through a magnifying glass in the middle of the screen or though a cross hair’s), you would make concrete poets very happy: They would then be able to draw with the keys, and produce visual poetry. This would probably need to be converted to image upon export, but that’s better than nothing. In fact it’s wonderful!

Process documentation. Save the production of the poem as an animation or movie, and you would make other poets insanely satisfied.

Recording. Many poets work a lot with the sound of their text. Recording option should have live spectrogram and a simple editor, fade-in and fade-out, maybe an ambience effect and recording to aiff for best result.

Write on an image. Import an image, and write on it. Choose tool, font, size and colour, as well as placement and fluid line-spacing. Save with image, or save as alpha channel.

Snippets holder. Working with poetry one sometimes kills everything off, but has a nice two lines that could well form the basis of a future poem, or be incorporated somewhere. Give it a time-stamp and/or an visual expiry date, and the poet will be happy not to have too much clutter in his workspace, but still able to find it upon inspection of snippets.

Undo/redo. undo back to the beginning, and redo back to the end. Observing the chain of thought can get a poet back on track, if he lost his way.

Alignment. Some poets like the christmas tree model, centering, and should have that option, plus line spacing, fluid or fixed by desire. Right margin is used by some. A mixture of all is also employed by some.

Clean table. No menus visible. Eg. corner points for calling menus out.

Music control. Many poets like to listen to music while writing. Turning off, changing song, turning volume up and down fast is an advantage to focus and flow. Maybe a one touch interaction with the mp3 app?

– Fixed size paper. Many poets work with limitations in paper size. Could just be a dotted barrier on the page to indicate the selected size. When it comes to publishing, the most normal format presently is 3:4 (1:35), but why would a poet want to limit him or herself to the size of e-reader screens AS THEY ARE NOW?! An ebook is for ever, meaning it also exists in the future, of which we know nothing…

Endless roll / page breaks. For ease of writing the endless roll of paper is a gooood thing. To indicate the page breaks means also to indicate quantity of production. Can be satisfactory to know how far one has gotten. Ease of shifting bewteen the two

– Think well of those poets writing in different directions – left to right, top to bottom! And prepare for people working in other languages. You would want this to be the only Poet’s App a poet would ever need. Subtle, yet amazingly powerful.

– And remember that it could be used as a proofing tool as well! So, plenty of annotation possibilities.

Interlinking. As we go digital, we want Anchors! TOCs! Outside linking as part of writing! Possibly linking to specific page in another book @ as yet unfound on the net!

Illustrations, yes we want pictures too, fluid placement, anchored to text, under over inside the text. Please.

–oo0oo–

In November I will join a discussion at the Book Fair in copenhagen on the topic of “publishing of digital poetry and the possibility of abuse of poetry made available on the net” (sigh). Here, among other things, I intend to mention the lack of modern Danish or contemporary English epoetry in the Danish iTunes Store (or any other language for that matter), as well as the lack of Danish epoetry in Amazon, Sony or Barnes and Noble…

Okay, alright… There aren’t any! ePoetry collections for sale. The very few “best of” of selected living and dead poets are mostly all there is. Free poems and collections of poetry are bountiful on the net. Most are self-published, and they are un-edited by professionals and it shows.

Today, large Danish publishers don’t believe in poetry as flagships of their business identity anymore. They might slowly be turning towards digital poetry, but it is ever so slowly, and waiting for everyone else. Gyldendal, the largest publisher in Denmark, has signed up with an ereader producer, but it’s all DRM and no Reader Experience. The largest Danish internet bookstore, Saxo, sells ebooks without DRM, if the publishers want it. At present, there is ONE non-anthologised (ie new’ish) collection of poetry for sale, over-priced and the publisher has forgotten to incorporate the author in its own searchable databank. And references to the digital version is nowhere to be found (a POD can be found and bought instead…)

Well, all aside:
I want the Danish poet, no, ANY poet, to have a tool, a digital tool that can grow over platforms. A way to think and interact with poetry. I want the poets themselves to show publishers and re-sellers that digital poetry is not rigid, nor (forever) bound to 6 or 9 or 10 inches or a computer screen, but that poetry in itself is a way of thinking, which transcends e-reader devices and document formats.

I want for poets to go slower, to get in closer touch which their audience. If necessessary for comfort and clarity more in the observer role than as present-participant, but closer. An app as the one described, or out of similar mind set in regards to the actualisation fase of writing poetry, gives the poet a beginner’s handle on WHAT to use digitality for and WHAT to demand of digitivity in terms of options. A real instrument.

kind regards,
kenneth krabat
poet

UPDATE Jan. 7th, 2011: The app should most likely produce/work in an SVG file, if not an image file with layers. SVG (vector graphics) is scalable in ereader devices – though device makers don’t yet care for SVG, even if EPUB supports embedding of SVG. (EPUB itsef is hopeless, when it comes to poetry – reflowing text kills poetry.) Working in image formats could be a solution – as presenting poetry in image formats could be a solution – but not a really good one. It takes poets and epoetry collections away from mainstream publications and into an area, where it can only be read via Comic Book (format) apps.