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Pickle Me This

April 1, 2010

Good things come in gorgeous packages

Poetry collections are some of the most beautiful books in my library. They have gorgeous cover designs, seductive embossments, such carefully chosen fonts, wonderfully fibrous paper that sets off the white space,  cut with such crisp edges. A lot of this, I think, is because so many of these books come from independent presses and reflect the care that these presses put into each detail of their books.

My all-time favourite cover design is from Alison Smith’s Six Mats and One Year (from Gaspereau Press), whose cover is is divided into rectangles like a six mat tatami room. I’ve got a thing for running my fingers along the octopus legs on Jennica Harper’s first collection The Octopus and Other Poems (from Signature Editions). I love the bird on Kerry Ryan’s The Sleeping Life (The Muses Company), the girl on Laurel Snyder’s The Myth of the Simple Machines (No Tell Books), I love how The Essential PK Page is like a bouquet of pressed flowers (from Porcupine’s Quill), and that tree from Susan Telfer’s House Beneath (Hagios Press), sprawling, gnarled and rooted.

It’s shallow, I know, to love poetry for its packaging, to covet books as objects, but I can’t help it if I do. It’s only the beginning of the story, of course, but it’s an important part, and it’s fortunate that so many poets and publishers think seem to feel the same.

Honestly, e-books will never hold a candle.

4 thoughts on “Good things come in gorgeous packages”

  1. Julia says:

    I don’t think it’s shallow at all! I’m often inspired to buy a book by its cover (ok, maybe I shouldn’t admit that, on second thought, maybe it is a bit shallow, and yes, there have been a few disasters, but there have also been awesome surprises:) Are you a fan of Don McKay’s poetry? Not sure how his covers add up, but he’s one of my canadian faves:)

  2. Alyssa says:

    I love books (and many other objects) for their design. Sometimes the design and content are a perfect match and sometimes one overshadows the other. But both are worthy of consideration in their own right.

  3. Maia says:

    Just discovered your blog, and am really enjoying it. Had to stop to comment on this post, because I agree with your commenter Julia that appreciating the covers of books isn’t shallow at all! It is, as you say, the beginning of the story.
    If you haven’t done so already, you might be interested in checking out Robert Bringhurst’s The Surface of Meaning: Books and Book Design in Canada. Bringhurst is, as you probably know, an innovative Canadian poet, and he has also written one of the bibles of the design world, The Elements of Typographic Design.
    As for Don McKay’s books: his Gaspereau Press edition of Vis-a-Vis is beautiful — the kind of book that’s a delight to hold in your hands. The content is wonderful too.

    1. Kerry says:

      Thanks for the suggestions.

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