Poems look odd on this site – why?

— PDF: You can read the A5-sized PDF format of this article here.
— Provenance: Edited by John Tranter, 2014.

This site is presented in the current WordPress manner; that is, the layout of the words and paragraphs is ‘responsive’. This means that the layout, which is formed by a clever combination of HTML and PHP, rearranges itself so the text reads clearly at any screen size, from a large desktop computer monitor to a tiny phone screen. Recent research tells us that more than half the people who visit the Internet, where this site lives, do so from a very small phone screen, and they deserve to be able to read the texts they encounter. Now phone screens are growing larger every year, but they are still very small, compared to the average desktop monitor screen.

This presents a great advantage to our Journal. Everyone can read all the text easily!

But poets may hate it. Their carefully-designed line breaks, word spaces and indentations will be crushed and damaged when someone chooses to look at the poem on a small screen. Sorry! At least those visitors can read all the words. And according to one person who checks websites using his phone screen, if the site is difficult to read clearly on a phone screen, he will read it that evening on his larger desktop monitor.

Visitors will not be able to read the page on a phone screen easily if the text is presented as a PDF file (Adobe’s ‘Portable Document Format’) or a full-screen JPG photo of the poem. In those cases, they can only see either a fragment of the whole page, or they can see all the page, but in tiny type far too small to read.

So what does a ‘responsive page layout’ do to a poem at various sizes? Here below is my version of a poem by Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) at a ‘normal’ large screen size, and then the same poem see through a very small screen window, such as you’ll find on a phone. You will note that for the smaller screen, new line-breaks are introduced, so all the words of each ‘line of poetry’ will show on the screen at once. Frankly, the small screen makes the poem look a bit of a mess, but so what?

So, if you wish to send poems to JPR, choose poems which will not become meaningless when disfigured in this way, or just put up with the consequences. Remember, most people who check a page on their phone screen, later look at it on a larger desktop monitor anyway.

John Tranter – that’s me – is the poetry editor of the Journal of Poetics Research.

The poem as seen on a desktop monitor, on a big screen:

Elevation, large screen

The poem as seen on a phone screen, that is, on a small screen:

Elevation, large screen

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