Posting Poetry in Discourse (Question)


My small writers group (5 people) has been using a mini-Ning for years. That service is about to be discontinued, and we are looking for alternatives. We have long discussions about our writing and writing-related topics.

One thing we do is critique each other poetry, so we need to be able to post poems and excerpts of poems in our discussions. Sometimes the poems are indented. When I was playing with this in “the Sandbox” today, I noticed that when I indented lines they became preformatted text. Not good when that split up the poem into two styles, like this:

A Poem

At the start
this poem is not indented

 later it is

not so nice for that last line
to look different from the rest of the poem.

and by the way sometimes we use italics in our poems.

…So, I thought, "No problem! I’ll just preformat the whole thing with that handy preformatting button. Here’s what happens:

**A Poem**

At the start
this poem is not indented

     later it is

not so nice for that last line
to look different from the rest of the poem.

and by the way sometimes we use _italics_ in our poems.

You can see that I lose the bold and italics in the poem. Otherwise it’s a good solution. I like that the poem is set off in grey. I don’t love the courier font, but I imagine that can be changed. It just occurred to me this preformatting is probably intended for programming language.

Is there a solution for our poems?

Any other thoughts about a small group of writers using Discourse?

Thank you!

(Mittineague) #2

Hi Karin3 welcome to the forum

Any chance of teaching them how to use entities?

At the start
this poem is not indented
  later it is
and by the way sometimes we use _italics_ in our poems.

At the start
this poem is not indented
  later it is
and by the way sometimes we use italics in our poems.


Thank you! I didn’t know about that myself. That would take care of the problem.

(sujato) #4

I’ve considered the same issue for my forum. Poetry is not well supported by HTML, and not at all by markdown.

You can, however, create verses indented every second line by using markdown lists, and adding the CSS:

.cooked ul li {
    list-style-type: none;
.cooked ul li:nth-child(even) {
    text-indent: 1em;

Of course that means you can’t use unordered lists. You could limit this problem by specifying that indented verses are in a list inside a blockquote, i.e.

>- Here is a line, a poem that rhymes,
- and makes an odd kind of sense.
- Here is another, call it a brother,
- two siblings under one tent.

then use:

.cooked blockquote ul li {
    list-style-type: none;
.cooked blockquote ul li:nth-child(even) {
    text-indent: 1em;

Ideally you’d hack the markdown editor so that you could use a markup similar to an unordered list—say, begin each line with a tilde—and it would “cook” it appropriately. But that’s beyond me, I’m afraid.

Having said all that, the reality is that poets will want to format their verses in all kinds of weird and wonderful ways, and so they should! And the only way to do that is to mark up with preformatted text, and adjust the CSS.

(Eli the Bearded) #5

Originally, with html as it once was, I’d agree with that first part. Now with CSS, you can, if you try hard, do anything I’ve ever seen in a printed poem in an html/css page. But it is a long way from easy and it requires much more power than a typical forum will want to offer to the users.

For one famous example, consider “The Mouse’s Tail” from Alice’s Adventures: Lewis Carroll’s “The Mouse’s Tale”

Class is used for text size here, the style bits for positioning:

<div class="eleven" style="position:relative;left:-60px">"Fury said to</div>
<div class="ten" style="position:relative;left:-40px">a mouse, That</div>
<div class="ten" style="position:relative;left:0px">he met</div>
<div class="ten" style="position:relative;left:10px">in the</div>
<div class="ten" style="position:relative;left:20px">house,</div>
<div class="ten" style="position:relative;left:17px">'Let us</div>
<div class="ten" style="position:relative;left:5px">both go</div>
<div class="ten" style="position:relative;left:-7px">to law:</div>
<div class="ten" style="position:relative;left:-23px"><i>I</i> will</div>
<div class="ten" style="position:relative;left:-26px">prosecute</div>
<div class="nine" style="position:relative;left:-40px"><i>you.</i>&mdash;</div>
<div class="nine" style="position:relative;left:-30px">Come, I'll</div>
<div class="nine" style="position:relative;left:-20px">take no</div>
<div class="nine" style="position:relative;left:-7px">denial;</div>
<div class="nine" style="position:relative;left:19px">We must</div>
<div class="nine" style="position:relative;left:45px">have a</div>
<div class="nine" style="position:relative;left:67px">trial:</div>

And although I can’t find a live example, I can concoct one, “Jabberwocky”'s first stanza is typically shown mirrored in the book (Looking-Glass):

<style type=text/css>
.odd { position:relative }
.even { position:relative;left:1em }
.flip { transform: scale(-1, 1) }

<div class="odd flip">'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves</div>
<div class="even flip">Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;</div>
<div class="odd flip">All mimsy were the borogoves,</div>
<div class="even flip">And the mome raths outgrabe.</div>

There’s everything there to handle concrete poetry, Apollinaire’s “Calligrammes” (read “It’s Raining” if you never have), jumbled overlapped forms from experimental poetry, but all those are best done in isolated pages.

I’d start with the syntax highlighter, and see if that could be made to understand light markup while leaving whitespace unchanged.


Thank you for these answers. It’s great to know that these things are possible. I do think that just knowing about the non-breaking space will take care of most of our needs. If we got this fancy we’d probably attach a file.