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Lover of words, Lover of...Punctuation Options · View
Posted: Saturday, September 5, 2015 2:48:58 PM
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Joined: 2/17/2014
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Punctuation in poetry is debatable. Like when it comes to grammar rules in poetry, some people feel strongly about it. I personally can take it or leave it. It depends on how I'm trying to say what I'm saying. So, I'm on the side of both. Not all poems need punctuation. And, isn't the poem itself the most important thing. Punctuation gives order, reduces confusion, establishes pace, gives emphasis and leads the reader. The whole idea of communicating is not just to be heard, but possibly understood. Of course, an exceptional poem takes you beyond just the gift and insight the writer is sharing. Punctuation helps the poem. I'm pretty traditional about this. It is as important as word choice, phrasing and line/stanza breaks. However, what it should never do is distract the reader. If it is distracting, for the sake of the poem, eliminate it.

The very nature of poetry makes it attractive to the defiant, those of us that love to color outside of the lines--like me. There are all sorts of ways to experiment with it. I cannot stress enough the importance of not letting your idea of creativity ruin your poem though. "Kill your darlings." These are the harshest and hardest words to follow when writing. I don't care what type of writing you are doing. Do what is best for the poem. If punctuation distracts, then eliminate it. There is nothing wrong with that. The presence or absence should be a functioning part of the poem--not something you don't do because you are lazy (many people run to poetry because they don't want to learn grammar).

Look at ee cummings (everyone loves to bring him up and refer to "anyone lived in a pretty how town"), no punctuation and no grammar rules. You can't even write his name the way we are taught to write them according to him. I for one love Ntozake Shange and her poem "it's not so good to be born a girl/ sometimes". She doesn't use line breaks, capitalization or stanzas. It takes an exceptionally highly skilled writer to break the rules successfully. I'm no Ntozake Shange and you're most likely no ee cummings. You are going to have to be that kind of creative somewhere else. We are not trying to change rules here.

So, use punctuation or choose not to. Never the less, YOU MUST BE CONSISTENT throughout the poem. (Like when people use rhyme and fully develop a rhythm or meter, then pick it up and put it down and pick it up again--but, that's another thread all together. Whistle

If you choose to use punctuation it must be grammatically correct. One way to check that is to remove all your line breaks and stanza's and edit it like prose. Capitalization is standard at the beginning of each line/stanza and quite acceptable (preferred but not totally necessary).

Side bar:
I don't care how deeply you want the reader to think as your sentence trails off...An ellipses consists of three dots--end of discussion.
Hyphens and dashes are two different things used for two different reasons. It is acceptable to use a hyphen as a dash, but you must have a space before and after it.
No AAAAHHHHH, just Ah (or maybe Aah because it's in Webster). By the way, AH is an acronym for Arts and Humanities.
Just because the system double spaces your poem, every poem doesn't need to be double spaced. Spacing controls the speed of the reading. Choose it carefully. Don't be lazy if it doesn't need to be double spaced, edit again and space it appropriately.

Have fun, but don't sacrifice quality.

I love our poets.


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