He had bought a large map representing the sea,
Without the least vestige of land:
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
A map they could all understand.
~ Lewis Carroll, The Hunting of the Snark
Conventionally, white space might be defined as a contrast to the writer’s work on the page, as contrasting the place where work is occurring. Like this, the term seems to indicate the extremity of fractured space. But I think there a kind of white space within and surrounding each word, each phrase—a tonal presence, perhaps? Like this, white space is not just an absence of text or a state of being absent from the text. To borrow a phrase from Maurice Blanchot, in his essay “The Narrative Voice,” this white space is built by a “speech that does not illuminate and does not obscure.”
It lets the reader absorb and consider, allows the reader to formulate a response while still reading.
It provides a bit of a horizontal drift against the presumed forward necessity of a poem or story, against the vertical insistence of the page.
It is, perhaps, a matter of repetition and analogy (of possibility rather than precision). While it might seem that the reader must be ignoring what is read while moving into a private sphere of thoughts, thinking outside of the text while reading through this space, this is not wasted space. It is not meaningless. The author remains present with the reader, but does not instruct the reader, does not tell the reader anything.
~ Todd Fredson @ Passages North