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Punctuation is always questionable


rumisong
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In THIS thread:

 

... I don't think semicolons in poems are a no no, nor should they be, but I do think they are not very popular in contemporary style. That said, matters of style are important, and the point is well taken; I'll get rid of the semicolon in the version I posted in Member Poetry...

...

Tony

 

 

 

and

 

 

Puctuation is always questionable with me. I took an online poetry workshop some years ago and was told to take all of my punctuation out of my poem then carefully, minimally put only that which was absolutely necessary back in. Less is best. But in this particular poem, it is the clever phrasing that makes the piece and whatever helps the phrases stand out I think is best for the poem.

 

~~Tink

 

Id like to expand our looking at punctuation in poems

not as a seeking of advice because I dont believe in advice, like I dont believe in "shoulds" and "no-nos" and "political correctness" and "because everyone is doing is that way" -- this is iconoclast rumi, you see...

 

but- I would like some more thoughts from people, about things like line breaks and simply, the number of words in a line, or the follow-up word in the next line, acting AS punctuation... well, there I said it- thats MY opinion on it anyway...

 

and too, give us all another sense of how willing you are to break the rools and why or why not... how willing to BE an iconoclast? how willing to BE a little crazy, or light and easy, or just plain nuts, in your poetry, and why or why not...

 

anyone- everyone invited

 

(again, looking only for ones own take on THEIR own works and readings, not advice on what "everyone" should do, or what "everyone" should know)

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Great topic, Rumisong. Punctuation is near and dear to me. I know the basics, and I follow the "rules" that I was taught to the best of my ability in my prose and poems.

 

Writing is communication, and I think the use of punctuation should be tailored to the type of writing one is engaged in. When I write prose, I strive for clarity and precision. Punctuation can make a world of difference in meaning, and it matters most in things that must be precise.

 

Take law for instance. Laws must be written according to the lawmakers' intent and in accordance with constitutions from which lawmakers derive their authority to begin with. Law must be exact. In America, it's a common misconception that judges interpret laws for the governed. Laws don't to be interpreted; they are written in English for English speakers. If a person does not know English, an interpreter is needed to translate the law for him. But a law that cannot be reasonably understood by a person who speaks the language the law is written in is void for vagueness. How else could anyone reasonably be expected to follow such laws? No, in America, judges don't interpret the law, they apply the law. But I'm only bringing up this matter of law, as an example, to stress the importance of grammar and punctuation in daily life and to show where my views on the subject are coming from. In my opinion, rules of grammar are important when clarity and precision are of the utmost importance.

 

But now let's get to the fun stuff, poetry. I like the definition for poetry found in Wikipedia: "Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning." In other words, poetry, like music, can (in my opinion should) affect the senses of the reader and/or listener in complex ways. Here is where we can bend and break the rules of grammar and punctuation. (Imagine if law was written in metaphor!) Even so, I strive to use standard/"proper" punctuation in most of my verse ... unless deviating somehow enhances the poem.

 

I suppose my preference has to do with the type of verse I'm attempting to write: metrical poems. Though I certainly wouldn't argue that line breaks in metrical verse don't matter, I think they are less likely to be used as a substitute for punctuation. In metrical verse, the lines are essentially regular lengths, and the poem also has a very powerful poetic device, meter, to help carry it along. Therefore, I think expected punctuation works favorably in the background and is beneficial to the metrical poem.

 

Larkin expressed it very well when asked his opinion about poetry readings as opposed to reading poetry. He said, "Hearing a poem, as opposed to reading it on the page, means you miss so much—the shape, the punctuation, the italics, even knowing how far you are from the end. Reading it on the page means you can go your own pace, taking it in properly ... When you write a poem, you put everything into it that’s needed: the reader should 'hear' it just as clearly as if you were in the room saying it to him." Of course, in this statement he doesn't make a distinction between methods of punctuation, but it's evident that he does not consider punctuation unimportant.

 

I recently went back and edited the punctuation in one of my poems, Ukraina Hotel. Before the edit, the poem looked like this:

 

 

Fresh Federation snow on the hoods, trunks,

and window glass of cars in a half-filled lot --

her legs, with the bass between and kick-drum on

the beats, took me a long, hard way from Pravda;

the inside of her Volvo was still warm.

 

 

After editing, it looked like this:

 

 

Fresh Federation snow on the hoods, trunks,

and window glass of cars in a half-filled lot.

Her legs, with the bass between and kick-drum on

the beats, took me a long, hard way from Pravda.

The inside of her Volvo was still warm.

 

 

In the former, my use of the em-dash was simply incorrect. In the latter, the first two lines constitute a sentence fragment followed by a period. Not exactly proper grammar in the "law" sense, but in creative writing, sentence fragments aren't necessarily a bad thing. In the case of my poem, the first two lines (the sentence fragment) serve a purpose: to set the mood.

 

I'll stop here for now. I prolly have more.

 

Tony :)

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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Great topic, Rumisong. Punctuation is near and dear to me. I know the basics, and I follow the "rules" that I was taught to the best of my ability in my prose and poems.

 

Writing is communication, and I think the use of punctuation should be tailored to the type of writing one is engaged in. When I write prose, I strive for clarity and precision. Punctuation can make a world of difference in meaning, and it matters most in things that must be precise.

 

Larkin expressed it very well when asked his opinion about poetry readings as opposed to reading poetry. He said, "Hearing a poem, as opposed to reading it on the page, means you miss so much—the shape, the punctuation, the italics, even knowing how far you are from the end. Reading it on the page means you can go your own pace, taking it in properly ... When you write a poem, you put everything into it that’s needed: the reader should 'hear' it just as clearly as if you were in the room saying it to him." Of course, in this statement he doesn't make a distinction between methods of punctuation, but it's evident that he does not consider punctuation unimportant.I'll stop here for now. I prolly have more.

 

Tony :)

 

tony, I could not help but have a reaction of issues touched on in this thread. I am including them here, because you already have made a sensible response. [And hear me, Rumi! I read ya' and believe yer' aint as dumb as yer pertendin' to be.]

 

The reference to Larkin's thoughts is laudable. I have experienced (and highly recommend) listening to poems being read while the text is projected on the wall. It is a twofer. My eyes send the sense (supported by punctuation and line breaks as neededmeaning to my analytical and educated brain while my ears send the emotion to the esthetical part of it.

 

It is a toungue-in-cheek idea that: in poetry you have to know the rules before you can break them. Rules are not laws because you get punished , even executed for breaking laws. In poetry, the so called rules are condensation of ways that work, ways established by long experience and are circumvented or adapted, not broken. Poets are expected too be reasonably literate and to know style which illiterates don't. We must nobelieve literally yhay you have to know the rules to be able to break them. What it really means is that you have to be a good enough writer to express what you need to in a way that no one can say you broke the 'rules'.

 

Generally established and accepted 'truths' should not be scoffed at.

 

One such is that poems can be written in either prose or verse. Verse is generally taken to mean rhythmic flow of words, perhaps, but not necessarily metered. And metered poems are not always made up of fixed length lines. That applies mostly to the so called form poems, and some form poems insist on variable, sometimes a bit irregularly so, line lengths.

 

It seems pointless to argue private viewwpoints, and I am as guilty as the next guy, but there is a limit. We are not all equally well and equally extensively tead, esp. on poetic theories, to get into that kind of hassle.

 

Please, let us recall, that grammar is a roadmap to guide us to generate meaningful writing, a map established by our ancestors over millennia of years and noy some 'dumb rules' imposed on us by those 'stupid' teachers.

 

Punctuation is a part of grammar by the token that it is a tool for supporting clear syntax, a tool that has been developed, altered and improved over and over again, esp. after mass printing was invented.

Edited by waxwings
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Another nice and interesting topic here :). I read all of yours thought here, and everything make sense to me.

I have a problem always when it's time for punctuation in my English poetry. When I write in my own language then it's much easier for me, because the punctuation comes with the sense of the poem and should tell you how to read the poem. That's why I have problems in English, because if I do it my way then the grammar wouldn't be correct.

 

So always, when I read poetry I am paying attention to the punctuation so I read it well :).

 

Does make it sense? :)

 

Aleksandra

The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth - Jean Cocteau

History of Macedonia

 

 

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Does make it sense? :)

 

Yes, perfect sense- thanks for going here with us and lending the question your thoughts...

 

but I also asked

 

give us all another sense of how willing you are to break the rools and why or why not... how willing to BE an iconoclast? how willing to BE a little crazy, or light and easy, or just plain nuts, in your poetry, and why or why not...

 

 

and no one has answered this directly- there's been inferences- but I want to hear (read) folks here on this very point... please :)

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give us all another sense of how willing you are to break the rools and why or why not... how willing to BE an iconoclast? how willing to BE a little crazy, or light and easy, or just plain nuts, in your poetry, and why or why not...

 

 

and no one has answered this directly- there's been inferences- but I want to hear (read) folks here on this very point... please :)

I answered. :rolleyes: "I strive to use standard/"proper" punctuation in most of my verse ... unless deviating somehow enhances the poem."

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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I answered. :rolleyes: "I strive to use standard/"proper" punctuation in most of my verse ... unless deviating somehow enhances the poem."

 

 

oops, sorry, yes-- thats more than inference, indeed - sorry

 

My ears were pierced to hear something semi-iconoclastic at least ;)

 

but here you are saying, you STRIVE to be not-iconoclastic unless it works for the work

 

and the why-or-why-not?

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I answered. :rolleyes: "I strive to use standard/"proper" punctuation in most of my verse ... unless deviating somehow enhances the poem."

 

 

oops, sorry, yes-- thats more than inference, indeed - sorry

 

My ears were pierced to hear something semi-iconoclastic at least ;)

 

but here you are saying, you STRIVE to be not-iconoclastic unless it works for the work

 

and the why-or-why-not?

I'll give an example. No such thing as "more good" in proper grammar, but in my poem Yaël I say, "She has always been more good with words ..." But I guess that's about as crazy as I get, lol.

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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I guess that's about as crazy as I get, lol.

 

yeahyeah---slow it down there buddy, that fountain pen is going to give you knuckle-burn

 

Chuck

:icon_razz:

 

 

:))

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Does make it sense? :)

 

Yes, perfect sense- thanks for going here with us and lending the question your thoughts...

 

but I also asked

 

give us all another sense of how willing you are to break the rools and why or why not... how willing to BE an iconoclast? how willing to BE a little crazy, or light and easy, or just plain nuts, in your poetry, and why or why not...

 

 

and no one has answered this directly- there's been inferences- but I want to hear (read) folks here on this very point... please :)

 

Dear, Chuck. As much as I understood your question with my poor English, I would answer this way. I don't respect the rules so much, because of two reasons: 1st: I don't understand them enough ( or not at all :D) and 2nd: I don't stress myself because of that so much :icon_redface: . Why the second reason is a reason?! Well, not because of my laziness to learn but because I think that the poetry is enough free subject and can take many things and still be a poetry. Nobody knows why the author writes in the way he does... Many times I complain to Tony, when he is helping me with some of my poems, that many points I can not change, because I write some kind of Macedonian poetry In English language. In that case definitely I break rules for English written poem, but if I don't simply I would miss my own idea for the proper poem... So I guess I break rules anyway, and why?! simple answer would be: Because I want to.

 

Does make it sense, still?

 

:icon_eek:

 

Aleksandra

The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth - Jean Cocteau

History of Macedonia

 

 

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Are iconoclasts really all that?

 

 

that lady dropping her shades on me thinks so ;)

 

I mean, is Cummings where it's at? (Never liked him much.)

 

understood

 

and of course, 'eye of the beholder' and all that- but

 

but

 

but

 

ya-know? in poetry, today- not that the traditional stuff should ever EVER be called out of style- NO WAY- but today, poetry is about pushing boundaries a bit-

 

natural iconoclast here, forgive me

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Dear, Chuck. As much as I understood your question with my poor English, I would answer this way. I don't respect the rules so much, because of two reasons: 1st: I don't understand them enough ( or not at all :D) and 2nd: I don't stress myself because of that so much :icon_redface: . Why the second reason is a reason?! Well, not because of my laziness to learn but because I think that the poetry is enough free subject and can take many things and still be a poetry. Nobody knows why the author writes in the way he does... Many times I complain to Tony, when he is helping me with some of my poems, that many points I can not change, because I write some kind of Macedonian poetry In English language. In that case definitely I break rules for English written poem, but if I don't simply I would miss my own idea for the proper poem... So I guess I break rules anyway, and why?! simple answer would be: Because I want to.

 

Does make it sense, still?

 

Now THATS what Im talking about!!!

 

yeah, see Tony :icon_razz:

 

not because of my laziness to learn but because I think that the poetry is enough free subject and can take many things and still be a poetry. Nobody knows why the author writes in the way he does...

 

another BORN-iconoclast!

 

yay!!!

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today, poetry is about pushing boundaries a bit-

Trend or dogma, I tend to agree. I certainly think it's harder to come up with something fresh when so much has been done already. For example, I often wonder why so many movies are being remade. Has everything that can be done been done? Or is it laziness (Let's remake that one ... It was a winner!")? Either way, I hope not. Depresses me a bit ...

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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I answered. :blush: "I strive to use standard/"proper" punctuation in most of my verse ... unless deviating somehow enhances the poem."

 

 

oops, sorry, yes-- thats more than inference, indeed - sorry

 

My ears were pierced to hear something semi-iconoclastic at least ;)

 

but here you are saying, you STRIVE to be not-iconoclastic unless it works for the work

 

and the why-or-why-not?

I'll give an example. No such thing as "more good" in proper grammar, but in my poem Yaël I say, "She has always been more good with words ..." But I guess that's about as crazy as I get, lol.

 

I too addressed your question, rumi. To clarify, the universal advice to all wannabe poets is: either use punctuation correctly (and there is indeed a reliable source for what that means, including explanation for each case, why the 'roole' works for all good writers) or don't use it at all and let the reader fifure out what your poem tries to show/say. And if you don't care, the reader will conceive his own poem and is sure forget who wrote the original.

 

As for "more good" you, toni, are doing more good for all the wanna bees by the way you run this forum. But then there is the version: "He is more good than anyone else I know", and I willna mention who thinks that way.

 

In effect, proper grammar comes about when the author is understood by all who read her/his work. Just using the right words w/o using proper syntax won't do, for punctuation is needed when the syntax is unusual, as is often the case in a poem.

Edited by waxwings
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Dear, Chuck. As much as I understood your question with my poor English, I would answer this way. I don't respect the rules so much, because of two reasons: 1st: I don't understand them enough ( or not at all :D) and 2nd: I don't stress myself because of that so much :icon_redface: . Why the second reason is a reason?! Well, not because of my laziness to learn but because I think that the poetry is enough free subject and can take many things and still be a poetry. Nobody knows why the author writes in the way he does... Many times I complain to Tony, when he is helping me with some of my poems, that many points I can not change, because I write some kind of Macedonian poetry In English language. In that case definitely I break rules for English written poem, but if I don't simply I would miss my own idea for the proper poem... So I guess I break rules anyway, and why?! simple answer would be: Because I want to.

 

Does make it sense, still?

 

Now THATS what Im talking about!!!

 

yeah, see Tony :icon_razz:

 

not because of my laziness to learn but because I think that the poetry is enough free subject and can take many things and still be a poetry. Nobody knows why the author writes in the way he does...

 

another BORN-iconoclast!

 

yay!!!

 

It takes no effort or smarts to be an iconoclast. Shame on you trying to use Alex's lack of more insight to why English grammar is the way it is as a reason to label her an iconoclast.

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You are not pushing any boundaries, rumi. Sorry to say that, though this discussion is interesting fun, I suggest you must find some true and real boundaries first. It is not enough to merely say you are an iconoclast__you must prove it as many good poets have done before.

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Just an observation: I find Brits use more punctuations ( and are more critical on the use of punctuations) than Americans do. Any thought on this?

 

Each nation or, better, each group using a more or less grammatically common tongue may have its own set of precepts, precepts, not rooles a la rumi. Moreover, each such group has developed, by tradition/history, a style or a way that is accepted by the more or less educated majority as the way to express thoughts, ideas and beliefs in a more universally comprehensible way.

 

In the USA there are some 3, perhaps more styles supported in great detail by specific manuals. For instance, while writers, by an large, subscribe to the Chicago manual, I found (doingan edit of my daughter-in-laws doctoral thesis (she too is Latvian) I had to obey the mahual published by the American Association of Psychologists. There was not ahige difference, but the board of examiners woud have rejected the thesis if the fine differences were not respected. Her advisor told me that I had done a fine job noting ideosyncracies missed by my d-i-l.

 

I doubt the Brits as a whole are any more persnickety about punctuation than Americans. What it comes down to is that you have to persist on not caring what your readership may think of you as being literate or not.

 

My fear is not to remind (not the same as advise) fellow poets that it matters if their writing appears erudite, literate and worthy of reading. It is up to each to do what they want, but respectable writing seems the norm in literary arts, and, the last I heard, poetry is one.

 

Whether or not one considers ever having their work published by a respectable press, not writing as if one does, is more or less like painting by numbers, i.e., work of a dilettante. Serious writers do accept advice of the publisher's editor.

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Thanks for your thoughts, ww.

 

Here is the poem in my inbox today, accidents. I can't format it on this forum, so here's the link.

 

http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/inde...date=2010/10/13

 

This is a narrative prose poem. It works the way it is written because that creates a true feel of how a child would tell it, almost without taking a breath... It is written by someone who really knows how to write in such a way (and w/o punctuation) that every one listening or those reading it more than once (as they should) will hear/see where the pauses (punctuation?are. NOT JUST ANY FABLE CAN BE DELIVERED THAT WAY, AND LET US NOT FORGET THAT W/O SIGNIFICANT CONTENT A POEM MAY NOT WORK REGARDLESS OF FORM, AND FORM /STYLE SHOULD MATCH THE CONTENT.

 

I hear Garrison Keilor on the radio almost every day and subscribe to the 'almanac' for times when I cannot.

 

I have 'edited' the poem to show how it would be written per standard punctuation if it were truly needed to read/hear this poem the way it is intended by the author to be.

 

Keilor is a notably good reader of poems as well as other writing. For the poor reader who is otherwise reasonably intelligent, puncuation may help to better see how a text is to be delivered to a listening public.

 

i broke a vase at my great-grandfather's house when i was five. here, come sit on my lap,

he said. don't feel bad about that vase. i didn't like it anyway. you helped me get rid of it. i

knew better, but let him comfort me, while i felt secretly bad inside. did you know that my

own mother said i was her worst boy? no, i said, that can't be true. oh, yes, he said, and she was

right. i made accidents happen all the time. i didn't really mean to do bad things. they just

came upon me when i wasn't paying attention. when i was five, my brother and i chased the

goose in the barnyard until it fell over dead. we propped her up in the fence so she would

appear to be interested in the grass on the other side. what happened? my father noticed

that the goose did not move all day. we got spanked. should i get spanked too, for the vase?

not in my house, he said.

Edited by waxwings
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Here is today's poem On Punctuation

 

On Punctuation

not for me the dogma of the period

preaching order and a sure conclusion

and no not for me the prissy

formality or tight-lipped fence

of the colon and as for the semi-

colon call it what it is

a period slumming

with the commas

a poser at the bar

feigning liberation with one hand

tightening the leash with the other

oh give me the headlong run-on

fragment dangling its feet

over the edge give me the sly

comma with its come-hither

wave teasing all the characters

on either side give me ellipses

not just a gang of periods

a trail of possibilities

or give me the sweet interrupting dash

the running leaping joining dash all the voices

gleeing out over one another

oh if I must

punctuate

give me the YIPPEE

of the exclamation point

give me give me the curling

cupping curve mounting the period

with voluptuous uncertainty

 

 

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Is there some specific question in your mind, Lake. I find the author's idea re punctuation quite amusing. She makes very apt illumination of what punctuation marks accomplish. As for those marks I find of hardly any use in poems, her and my views are the same.

 

Semicolons have two uses of note:

 

one is to separate groups of parallel fragments in a sentence which fragments contain, in themselves, elements/ words in series that need be separated by commas, i.e., where the elements in one group are not parallel (having the function of the same given part of speechg) to such elements in another group. This is the norm for discursive swriting which is judged merely by standards of truth and falsehood, hardly or very seldom used in writings that are regarded as part of some genre of literary arts, such as poetry, specifically poems.

 

the other is to separate independent statements/clauses, those that can be understood all by themselves and without reference to to each other but do serve as parallel/alternate interpretations of the same subject, thought or theme. This use is seen in poetry, but only in the case where there is a justification to avoid using a period between the two so as to stress that alternate interpretation is important and the statements are not of considerable length. Most of the time, if a period is deemed to be too much of an interruption, a dash of some sort will do.

 

I do like to use dashes as distinct though having the same but stronger separative effect from commas, esp. when the clause or phrase acts as an interjection/aside to the main thought/clause.

 

I see no use for parentheses because dashes do the same and are less 'officious' for parentheses enclose primarily stuff that is rather far from what is the central aim of the writing and serve primarily to tall the reader for more info--interesting but not essential..

 

Colons are to separate (in either order) succinct/condensed matters from a detailed elucidation for those who are not 'specialists' in the subject. The equivalent for poetry would be to have a metaphor with a following (or preceding) explaination for those who are unable to grasp the whole import, i.e., telling which is the vehicle and which is the tenor in a metaphor.

 

As for quotation marks, why use them unless to enclose an exact and verbatim quote of what a character says.

 

In this poem, conjctions, line breaks and phrasing in general is such that punctuation is hardly needed. But I do find it unfortunate that. in a free-verse type (where the line length should not be controlled, except perhaps for rhythmic purposes) the author occasionally ignores the general belief (not rule) that descriptors of nouns and verbs of what comes in the next line are left at the end of the previous (note slashes I've inserted), esp. immediately after a strong word, which is cognitively disjunctive, since a line break does have tendency ro crete a pause (though much less noticeable than a comma) except when the reader already senses there is a syntactically given word to follow.

 

Let's just say that the effectiveness of a line break is a measure of hjust how good the poet is, i.e., her or his command of the language.

 

 

Here is today's poem On Punctuation

 

On Punctuation

not for me the dogma of the period

preaching order and a sure conclusion

and no not for me / the prissy

formality or tight-lipped fence

of the colon and as for the semi-

colon / call it what it is

a period slumming

with the commas

a poser at the bar

feigning liberation with one hand

tightening the leash with the other

oh give me the headlong / run-on

fragment dangling its feet

over the edge give me the sly

comma / with its come-hither

wave teasing all the characters

on either side give me ellipses

not just a gang of periods

a trail of possibilities

or give me the sweet interrupting dash

the running leaping joining dash all the voices

gleeing out over one another

oh if I must

punctuate

give me the YIPPEE

of the exclamation point

give me give me the curling

cupping curve mounting the period

with voluptuous uncertainty

 

 

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  • 2 months later...

I'd like to report back here with something fascinating I just learned. I recently obtained a volume of poems by a new favorite poet of mine, Frederick Goddard Tuckerman. It's called Selected Poems of Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press), and it's edited by Ben Mazer. On page XXXV of an introductory section called "Note on the Text," Mazer writes:

 

"A common observation of Tuckerman scholars and editors has been that Tuckerman's punctuation in the manuscripts appears to have been provisional. It is frequently arbitrary, sometimes nonsensical, and, in the poems that exist in multiple versions, inconsistent from one version to another .... Tuckerman appears to have expected someone other than himself to punctuate his poems for publication, and it is traditional in Tuckerman scholarship to assume that someone other than Tuckerman was responsible for the punctuation of the published edition of Poems. (It was not uncommon at the period for poets of reputation to expect their work to be punctuated by a house editor; Byron, for example, is known to have allowed house editors to repunctuate his texts.) " [emphasis mine]

 

I find it almost unbelievable that writers of this caliber were deficient in punctuating skills, that they would not avail themselves of punctuation's ability to affect meaning let alone take a hands off approach and allow editors to make every decision.

 

Tony

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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I'd like to report back here with something fascinating I just learned. I recently obtained a volume of poems by a new favorite poet of mine, Frederick Goddard Tuckerman. It's called Selected Poems of Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press), and it's edited by Ben Mazer. On page XXXV of an introductory section called "Note on the Text," Mazer writes:

 

"A common observation of Tuckerman scholars and editors has been that Tuckerman's punctuation in the manuscripts appears to have been provisional. It is frequently arbitrary, sometimes nonsensical, and, in the poems that exist in multiple versions, inconsistent from one version to another .... Tuckerman appears to have expected someone other than himself to punctuate his poems for publication, and it is traditional in Tuckerman scholarship to assume that someone other than Tuckerman was responsible for the punctuation of the published edition of Poems. (It was not uncommon at the period for poets of reputation to expect their work to be punctuated by a house editor; Byron, for example, is known to have allowed house editors to repunctuate his texts.) " [emphasis mine]

 

I find it almost unbelievable that writers of this caliber were deficient in punctuating skills, that they would not avail themselves of punctuation's ability to affect meaning let alone take a hands off approach and allow editors to make every decision.

 

Tony

 

I am surprised, but only re your belief in 'style', style as held in The Chicago Manual of ..."

 

One has to concede that most cannot see punctuation if they don't write, because when speaking, we do not consciously think of pausing for effect. We do that automatically, and the better speaker does better vary his emphasis and his pausing to get exactly the effect such as is not neccessarily possible/given in writing w/o punctuation.

 

Punctuation has history. The Romans did not, but neither didthey make a distinction betveen U and V when writing which they did mostly in caps, at least in public signs etc. Not did they use J ( the kind that they pronouced as we do in "yellow", i.e., the consonantal glide, but let the "I" do the work of "J" as well as its own. They did pronounce both. It is their falt we say "you" when pronoucing the letter "U".)

 

As our thoughts/sentences became more complex, we found a need for punctuation. There is a book that tells how punctuation came about. Sadly, I could not readily (at this instant) find among my stacks of my books (about writing, language and poetry)it to tell its title, etc. But I can recomment several other texts that speak to the point, primarily "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" by Lynne Truss. The title is stating, incorrectly, what a panda does instead of saying that a panda eats shoots & leaves (both) of the bamboo that grows in its habitat.

 

We should not argue our honest beliefs/feelings, but learn what punctuation does and does not to our writing. Those poets of yore cared abot being published and were not too proud to admit that they were illiterate to that effect regardles how literate they were otherwise to master poetically effective messages , i.e., poems, and apparently could recite them (they did that much more than we do now) in a way there was no question of being misquoted.

 

Besides, I don't think they let the editor make every decision. To the best of my knowledge, good editors do not frighten away promising sellers but (esp. more so as time went on) would consult on all matters of editing. Many writers did not know how to spell because to pronounce right did then matter more. And English orthography has never been a shining example.

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I am surprised, but only re your belief in 'style', style as held in The Chicago Manual of ..."

I'm not sure what you mean, Ikars. I thought you and I shared similar views on punctuation and style ...

 

One has to concede that most cannot see punctuation if they don't write, because when speaking, we do not consciously think of pausing for effect. We do that automatically, and the better speaker does better vary his emphasis and his pausing to get exactly the effect such as is not neccessarily possible/given in writing w/o punctuation.

Great point.

 

Punctuation has history. The Romans did not, but neither didthey make a distinction betveen U and V when writing which they did mostly in caps, at least in public signs etc. Not did they use J ( the kind that they pronouced as we do in "yellow", i.e., the consonantal glide, but let the "I" do the work of "J" as well as its own. They did pronounce both. It is their falt we say "you" when pronoucing the letter "U") ... As our thoughts/sentences became more complex, we found a need for punctuation.

This is very interesting. I had noticed the V's and the U's, but I didn't know that they didn't use punctuation.

 

We should not argue our honest beliefs/feelings, but learn what punctuation does and does not to our writing. Those poets of yore cared abot being published and were not too proud to admit that they were illiterate to that effect regardles how literate they were otherwise to master poetically effective messages , i.e., poems, and apparently could recite them (they did that much more than we do now) in a way there was no question of being misquoted ... Besides, I don't think they let the editor make every decision. To the best of my knowledge, good editors do not frighten away promising sellers but (esp. more so as time went on) would consult on all matters of editing. Many writers did not know how to spell because to pronounce right did then matter more.

I certainly didn't mean that there is no need for editors. I was simply surprised that the excerpt from the book seemed to indicate that the greats didn't even have a rudimentary knowledge of punctuation. I'm always pleased when you help me with my own punctuation, but part of that comes from the desire to learn how to do it better myself. From the excerpt, I inferred that the greats didn't care ("Just let the editors do it.")

 

And English orthography has never been a shining example.

This I didn't know, but I seem to remember reading that English started out as a peasant language and remained as such until some learned people got together and set down some standards. I wonder what languages were more exacting in these matters?

 

Tony

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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I am surprised, but only re your belief in 'style', style as held in The Chicago Manual of ..."

I'm not sure what you mean, Ikars. I thought you and I shared similar views on punctuation and style ...

 

My sincere apology. We do have similar views. I wrote this when very tired and it was a reaction to something I had read in a previous post and somehow got my thinking all muddled up, like pieces of two different conversations shuffled together. I am truly at a loss in figuring how I managed to do it.

 

And English orthography has never been a shining example.

This I didn't know, but I seem to remember reading that English started out as a peasant language and remained as such until some learned people got together and set down some standards. I wonder what languages were more exacting in these matters?

 

As a blessing and a curse, many Anglo-Saxon 'literates', very early and independently of each other, tried to show native English speech sounds orthographically, mixing Germanic, French and Latin usages. Who knows when native English became Anglo-Saxon etc. (see The English Language by David Crystal) and took many transformations before it turned to what it is today. The main problem was and is that English is unbelievably rich in the vowel spectrum. Much of that is due to variants induced by preceding or following consonants, not so in most other European languages.

 

I do not know the history of other tongues but suspect that, in many, special orthography was developedin much later times where writing was introduced much later. Memorable sayings etc. were carried by mouth.

 

Latvian has no sounds but one (try yie, which was first rendered as ee by the German invaders) that the Latin alphabet could not represent exactly. There is the c for ts and tthesubscript caret, instead of the h as in ch, sh zh and the 5 vowells and their long equivalents shown by a macron. Only one, the regular o has no equivalent for it is sounded like wua would be in English. Many European languages use superscripts similarly to mark composite consonantal sounds and other than the phonetically standard vowels. Estonian uses double vowels and other tongues do.

Tony

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Just an observation: I find Brits use more punctuations ( and are more critical on the use of punctuations) than Americans do. Any thought on this?

 

Each nation or, better, each group using a more or less grammatically common tongue may have its own set of precepts, precepts, not rooles a la rumi. Moreover, each such group has developed, by tradition/history, a style or a way that is accepted by the more or less educated majority as the way to express thoughts, ideas and beliefs in a more universally comprehensible way.

 

In the USA there are some 3, perhaps more styles supported in great detail by specific manuals. For instance, while writers, by an large, subscribe to the Chicago manual, I found (doingan edit of my daughter-in-laws doctoral thesis (she too is Latvian) I had to obey the mahual published by the American Association of Psychologists. There was not ahige difference, but the board of examiners woud have rejected the thesis if the fine differences were not respected. Her advisor told me that I had done a fine job noting ideosyncracies missed by my d-i-l.

 

I doubt the Brits as a whole are any more persnickety about punctuation than Americans. What it comes down to is that you have to persist on not caring what your readership may think of you as being literate or not.

 

My fear is not to remind (not the same as advise) fellow poets that it matters if their writing appears erudite, literate and worthy of reading. It is up to each to do what they want, but respectable writing seems the norm in literary arts, and, the last I heard, poetry is one.

 

Whether or not one considers ever having their work published by a respectable press, not writing as if one does, is more or less like painting by numbers, i.e., work of a dilettante. Serious writers do accept advice of the publisher's editor.

 

 

May be just one of those things that people say, but I have heard that the French have a law prohibiting any change in their language. Somehow seems fitting to the culture.

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Just an observation: I find Brits use more punctuations ( and are more critical on the use of punctuations) than Americans do. Any thought on this?

 

Each nation or, better, each group using a more or less grammatically common tongue may have its own set of precepts, precepts, not rooles a la rumi. Moreover, each such group has developed, by tradition/history, a style or a way that is accepted by the more or less educated majority as the way to express thoughts, ideas and beliefs in a more universally comprehensible way.

 

In the USA there are some 3, perhaps more styles supported in great detail by specific manuals. For instance, while writers, by an large, subscribe to the Chicago manual, I found (doingan edit of my daughter-in-laws doctoral thesis (she too is Latvian) I had to obey the mahual published by the American Association of Psychologists. There was not ahige difference, but the board of examiners woud have rejected the thesis if the fine differences were not respected. Her advisor told me that I had done a fine job noting ideosyncracies missed by my d-i-l.

 

I doubt the Brits as a whole are any more persnickety about punctuation than Americans. What it comes down to is that you have to persist on not caring what your readership may think of you as being literate or not.

 

My fear is not to remind (not the same as advise) fellow poets that it matters if their writing appears erudite, literate and worthy of reading. It is up to each to do what they want, but respectable writing seems the norm in literary arts, and, the last I heard, poetry is one.

 

Whether or not one considers ever having their work published by a respectable press, not writing as if one does, is more or less like painting by numbers, i.e., work of a dilettante. Serious writers do accept advice of the publisher's editor.

 

 

May be just one of those things that people say, but I have heard that the French have a law prohibiting any change in their language. Somehow seems fitting to the culture.

 

The French may be a bit uppity in a few areas, but I see nothing wrong in a law controlling the mongrelization of one's language. The Latvian's, esp. in 'exile' consider their language the major element of their heritage. Too many languages are disppearing and the cultures that used them as well. A long standing rule that when writing in Latvian one must respell foreign, esp. proper names in such a way that a Latvian reading them would make them sound just as they do in their ow tongue. That shows respect for other tongues. Why not have respect for your own.

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