The amazing similarity between poetry and design

Recently, I bought a book of poetry by the Canadian poet Irving Layton. I was hanging out at the magazine rack of our local book store, perusing the design mags, whining to my wife that every magazine had the *exact same content*: the same reviews, the same commentary, the same design examples, the same ads… I had a crisp $20 burning a hole in my pocket, and was completely disillusioned by the thought of rewarding an editor for his or her commitment to mediocrity.

I’m pretty well stocked up on audio books, so I wasn’t even looking for a book. Besides, the tower of Babel I’m building beside my bed wouldn’t stand up to another addition without some serious seismic upgrading. I was headed out the door, when I realized She was still panting heavily into a british house porn glossy. Sigh…. Reaching blindly for the closest thing at hand (actually a lie. That should read “reaching for whatever it was that really hot girl just put back on the shelf”), my hand fell upon a book of poetry – _A Wild Peculiar Joy_ by Irving Layton.

Confession time: I have a really hard time reading poetry. I skip it in the New Yorker, finding it too hard to concentrate. My eyes flit all over the page, never really making it from one line to the next, despite my intention to _try to make it through this time_. I’ve never read, never mind owned a book of poetry. Yet I was completely and immediately drawn into Layton’s world. I bought the book.

I’ve only had it a couple of days now, and have only skimmed its surface. *I’ve read enough though to be completely amazed at the similarities between poetry and design*. Both poetry and design are exercises in distilling thought to its purest form. Each element fretted over and placed with care, or thrown down with fiery emotion.

In both cases the decor serves to draw you in – like a flower to a flittering hummingbird – to hold you still for long enough to deliver the message. Both are a balancing act of head and heart, with rhythm or format defining the constraints and colour and language filling the space.

In both cases the sum is greater than the parts, for the parts taken together or in smaller groups each can speak their own message, reinforcing the central theme. There’s something to this, and lessons to be learned. “Cameron Moll”: wrote something along these lines a while back. But his article focussed on a particular type of poetry, as opposed to poetry as a whole. I’m going to think about this for a bit, and get back to you.