letters
to an unknown audience
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Stanzas/  /October 15, 2002

Thanks to those intrepid HTML hackers who offered suggestions on how to set poetry in the way I was raised to set it. My vague prose left open the matter of how poetry should be set, or what aspects of such typesetting I was trying to achieve.

Well, let my celebrants be celebrated and let my vagueness be damned. I found a trick and I'd like to share it, if you don't mind my grandstanding a bit.

I set each line as a separate paragraph, using a CSS class p.poetry with margin-top: -1em (to take out the inter-paragraph blank line), margin-left: 3pc and text-indent: -2pc. This set the typical line flush-left, one pica from the real margin of the text, and when a line of poetry wraps, it begins two picas in from the poetic ines. Let me demonstrate:

I grandstand; I contain multitudes. After all, I contain multitudes. I am grand, and I ramble.

There we were by the bivouack, watching its fitful flame. 'N stuff. "Punk rock!" I hollered, grabbing the rope that every man carries.

Next problem: my small-caps are either taller or shorter than the x-height, depending on your browser/font combinations. Can anything be done?

Post Scriptum: I see now that despite my assiduous cross-browser testing, certain obscure browsers (such as IE 6.0 on Windows) render my lines of poetry overlapping one another. Alas. Suggestions to combat this effect are welcome. In the meantime, my advice is simply not to use IE.

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