13 abr. 2008

Here's a question. Who decided that poetry books should be 60-80 pages long? (Or thereabouts.) Some are 40, and some are 120, but there is a normative length of at least 60 and not too much more than 70. Selected and Collected Poems are another category, though Selecteds tend to be only slightly fatter than the classic "slim volume of verse."

Is it poet, publisher, or reader driven? It certainly isn't simply a fact of nature that books have to be this length. I can see that the practicalities of producing and selling the book at a certain price might favor a certain standardization. You might not want to pay $12.95 for 35 pages. I know prizes have pages guidelines, and probably MFA programs have guidelines for the length of a poetry "thesis." I'm thinking in the 18th or 19th century this convention of 60 pages did not yet exist, so it would be interesting to pinpoint its exact beginning, in its modern form. It's not enough to identify a book from some other century that had about 60 pages: I'm interested in the standarization of this model.

I would be happy with books of about 40-50 pages. Leave out a few of your weaker poems, poets. Really big books like Collected Creeleys or Kochs or Hardys are useful to have as references on your shelves, but as a reader I prefer smaller packages to take along with me on trips. I think the 150 page format is underutilized. How many pages was Harmonium?

Although both SoQ and avant-garde books tend to similar average lengths (I suspect), I think the quietudinous model is a bit more fixed, with fatter and thinner options less acceptable. Of course there is a model of the shorter collection, called the chapbook, but they are associated typically with lower production values.

2 comentarios:

Gary dijo...

The only "official" numbering I remember hearing about was that your poetry book had to have at least 100 pages to get reviewed in Publishers Weekly.

I don't know how hard and fast that rule ever was, or if it was a real rule (as opposed to a rumor, which is likely).

Jonathan dijo...

That's a convenient excuse not to review most poetry books.