Poets have their own styles. But a poetry anthology should set some formatting ground rules.
For Bicycle Comics’ poetry anthologies, we allow three levels of indent, plus centered and right-justified text. That’s five different relations a line of poetry can have with its margins.
- flush left or “normal.” This is level “0” above, for 0 indents
- 1 indent, still left justified with a hanging indent
- 2 indents, still left justified with a hanging indent
- centered text, indents not applicable
- flush right or right-justified text, indents not applicable
I think that’s enough. Limitations help creativity, they don’t hurt it. Few people complain anymore about Twitter’s 140 character limit, or SMS’s 160 character limit. Not that many people complain about sonnets with only 140 syllables, or pianos with 88 keys.
If a poet is really fussy about margins and indents, then chances are a digital anthology isn’t the right choice for that poet, anyway. With E-book poetry, you can only recommend the final appearance of a poem; you can’t control it.