Two Georgian Marshes

For this assignment I examined two printed versions of “The Marshes of Glynn.” Though both are small chapbooks of this poem printed in Georgia in the mid-twentieth century, they differ greatly in appearance and purpose.

Cover. Sidney Lanier. The Marshes of Glynn. Souvenir ed. Brunswick, Ga.: Smith Printing House [for the Brunswick Rotary Club], 1940.
Cover. Sidney Lanier. The Marshes of Glynn. Darien, Ga.: Ashantilly Press, 1984.

The first of the two books is a pocket-sized Souvenir Edition of the poem printed by the Brunswick Rotary Club in Georgia. The book was printed “with permission” for  a conference that took place in Brunswick in 1940. The fact that it was printed with permission is interesting because the other, more decorative book has its own copyright for the book’s design.The size of the souvenir book is convenient but ultimately detrimental to the poem. The small pages force breaks in lines, which makes each line less powerful as it is interrupted inorganically. Additionally, because of the printer’s desire to conserve space and fit the poem into this small book, the spaces between stanzas are hardly identifiable. This changes how the poem is read, as it feels a lot more continuous and less organized. There is barely a difference between the start of a new line and the start of a new stanza. Clearly the intention was to print the poem efficiently and in a book that would be readily used by those who received it, so the “changes” the poem undergoes by putting in this format appear to have been overlooked for the sake of the book’s form.

Pages 3 – 4. Sidney Lanier. The Marshes of Glynn. Souvenir ed. Brunswick, Ga.: Smith Printing House [for the Brunswick Rotary Club], 1940.
The second version of the poem differs greatly in that it is far more interested in the presentation of the poem as a physically beautiful thing rather than focusing on cramming all the words into a small space. Printed by the Ashantilly Press in Georgia in 1984, a reprinting of what appears to have been originally crated in 1957 (the date of the first copyright), this illustrated copy of the poemis more like a work of art. However, just because more attention was paid to the beauty of the book and the poem does not mean the poem is unchanged by this form. The first word of each stanza is written in all capital letters and printed in red, which places a huge emphasis on a word that in other versions of the poem does nothing more than start the first line of the stanza. This changes the reading slightly as it makes the red words more important and ultimately creates a harsher, more noticeable break between stanzas. They are made more disparate by the garishness of the first word. This is completely contrary to the separation of stanzas that occurs in the Souvenir Edition book. The watercolors, though quiet and decorative and not distracting, end up interrupting the poem by creating breaks in the poem that were not already there. For instance, there are breaks in the latter portion of the poem that do not appear to be stanza breaks in the Souvenir Edition that are created by the placement of images in this decorative version. The stanzas are made more different from one another by the amount of physical space between them. In the case of this book, its size compared to the length of the poem actually impedes on the flow of the poem by making each stanza disparate. It appears as though neither book could find a balance between size and poem length, something all publishers should consider when printing a poem regardless of the book’s purpose.

Pages 4 – 5. Sidney Lanier. The Marshes of Glynn. Darien, Ga.: Ashantilly Press, 1984.

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