Tuesday, April 13, 2010

With it being the holidays I've not had much of a chance to get into writing but I have been thinking a lot about poetry book covers and I'm curious to know how people decide on the cover picture or design for their book - whether they go for a nice picture that ties in with the theme of the book or maybe a striking picture that's more specific to the title of the collection, and what kind of covers people prefer when buying a book.

I really like the cover of Robin Robertson's The Wrecking Light. According to the inside cover it's a painting by Sam Morrow. It doesn't bear direct resemblance to the title and I don't think the apples are a reference to any particular poem but it is a beautiful picture. To me the black background conveys the darkness at the heart of many of the poems with the apples representing the fragile beauty and sensuality of nature which at times blends with human nature. And of course apples are a potent symbol of innocence, knowledge and sinfulness. I was planning on buying the book because I'd just heard Robertson read from it and really liked his poems but if I hadn't heard of the author or the poems and just saw the book in a bookshop I would definitely have picked it up for a look because of its cover and title.

I also really like the cover of Anne Sexton's All my Pretty Ones (notice a theme here of black backgrounds!!). The purple flower against the black seems darkly feminine which is one way you could characterise the poems, I'm afraid I don't know what the flower is so I can't really speculate on its significance.

I guess my preference is nature as a symbol against a dark background!


Rachel Fox said...

I'd had my eye on the artwork I used for a while. The artist is a friend and it was one of my favourite pieces of hers.

I think maybe you should use something by Roxana...have you discussed that with her.


Sorlil said...

I think your cover is great, the green is gorgeous and the painting has a Rennie MacKintosh feel about it.
There are a couple of Roaxana's that I'd love to use, the only problem is they don't fit with my working title and I've yet to come up with a better title but there's plenty time yet before my pamphlet's out!

Roxana said...

wow - your discussion came like a big surprise to me, i hadn't in the least expected that! thank you, Rachel and Sorlil - no matter what you decide, i am honoured to be mentioned in connection with your pamphlet!

Titus said...

Interesting - I steer clear of the nature ones, and they would never be my first choice to pick up if I were just browsing. I think I prefer shocking, puzzling or industrial/architectural themes - they attract me. Or a person, I like people. Or just text actually. This isn't helping, is it?

Designed my cover to fit with the title poem, but its themes are very much the themes of the book.

Having just browsed the bookshelves, I have an enormous fondness for the front covers of the CUP's Selected Tales from Chaucer, because you can draw a yoyo on the finger of the pilgrim and make the horse say "Winney", who was one of the editors of the series. I have done this on virtually every one of them, and it still makes me laugh.

Sorlil said...

roxana, you know how much I love the photo you sent me over!! I was looking through your archives the other night and saw a couple that I also really love :)

hi titus, I like puzzling also :) I'm a bit afraid of using a poem title as the pamphlet in case my poem doesn't live up to the pressure of being a 'title poem'.
now I must look up those selected tales covers!!

deemikay said...

Not that I don't love photos of nature (or anything else) but I like big blocks of words on book covers. I also like abstract patterns. But, of course, books like that don't sell, so never put me in charge of the cover design department!

Titus said...

Other editors were Spearing and Hussey, which led to much ruder visual merriment.

Sorlil said...

the old retro faber covers are great!!

Claire said...

just to say thank you for your comment when james guest posted over at my blog.

in terms of covers... for me the most eye cathching ones are the simple, minimal, white background ones.

always a matter of personal taste and therefore always subjective : )

so i make a point of reading words first before looking at covers : )

Sorlil said...

thanks claire! yes, it all comes down to personal taste, I try not to judge a book too much by its cover :)

panther said...

I must say i really like black backgrounds-so elegant.

When I chose the cover for my collection (a painting by Jeanie Tomanek, the contemporary American painter) I had an idea of wanting an image that showed a person interacting with a bird.

But before I happened upon Jeanie's image-which I like very much-I had various other ideas which were rejected by the publisher because of copyright issues. Jeanie T. was generous enough to let us use her image for free-as long as we sent her three free copies of the book.

Sorlil said...

hi panther! yes there is something very elegant and unassuming about black backgrounds. I like the sound of your image, very intriguing!!

Dominic Rivron said...

I was looking for a cover picture the other week. I suspect the best ideas come from the mental equivalent of "peripheral vision". I think this probably goes for find good cover pictures. We've collected loads of photos and if a picture appeals without you knowing why then you might find it useful later for reasons you never envisaged.