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the integrity of a poem

“Poetry, the most precise and precious of literary forms, is also so far the least adaptable to the growing e-book market. A three-line stanza might be expanded to four if a line is too long or a four-line stanza compressed into three if the second and fourth lines have sharp indentations, as with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Hymn to the Night.”

Royalty disputes, philosophical objections and suspicions of technology are keeping countless books from appearing in electronic form, from “The Catcher in the Rye” to “Gravity’s Rainbow.” But for poetry, the gap is especially large because publishers and e-book makers have not figured out how the integrity of a poem can be guaranteed. And a displaced word, even a comma, can alter a poem’s meaning as surely as skipping a note changes a song.

“The critical difference between prose and poetry is that prose is kind of like water and will become the shape of any vessel you pour it into to. Poetry is like a piece of sculpture and can easily break,” Collins says.”

– Yahoo! article on poems in electronic form, esp. in e-books (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100714/ap_en_ot/us_books_e_poetry_blues)

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