from Alphabetical

P.K. Page

copyright ©P.K. Page, 2002

Let us consider kissing. Nothing to do with love.
Or something. Sometimes.
But not as world-wide a custom as one might suppose.
That being so
I am curious to know
what, in those unkissing cultures,
they do with their lips?

Notes on the Poem

P.K. Page wends her way through the alphabet in subtle and arresting fashion in her poem "Alphabetical", from the 2003 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted collection "Planet Earth: Poems Selected and New". While the subject and tone of each thoughtful verse lends the poem a rambling rhythm that is appealing, another feature of the poem as it appears on the page might also contribute to its overall meditative quality. Does how the poem text is laid out on the page achieve this? Well, this typography expert is among those who condemn the overuse of centered text. Mr. Butterick contends that this "safe but boring" style "makes paragraphs difficult to read because both edges of the paragraph are uneven." Did Page make an ill-advised choice? Perhaps the effect of making something "difficult to read" could also be perceived as simply slowing down how the reader scans and takes in words, and digests each sentence, thought or fragment. That sense of slowing strengthens the feeling that each verse is being carefully pondered, both as it is presented by the poet and the poem's narrator, and as the reader is encouraged to consider it. How the lines break in this layout also introduces a shy and rather sweet incidental rhyme: "That being so I am curious to know" ... and then offers a careful pause before the final line, introducing it like a gentle punchline, lending some whimsy to the subject under consideration.

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