1. AfterBroadway
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    AfterBroadway Senior Member

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    Using Punctuation in Poetry

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by AfterBroadway, Aug 2, 2011.

    There is a user here that has just posted one of their poems up for review, which I will link below after my question. I was always told to use as little punctuation as possible. Originally I thought this was sort of a rule only snobby poetry nazis, but I've actually grown to agree with that because I feel if you end each line or stanza the proper way, you won't need commas or periods and all that.

    What's your opinion on punctuation in poetry?

    Here's the poem I was talking about:
    http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=44442
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    The punctuation used in a poem should help create whatever tone you're going for in a tone. If you want a broken or disconnected tone, use more dashes; if you want a spontanous feel, use it sparingly or not at all; if you want a flowy diatribe feel, use lots of commas like a big runon sentence; etc. It's up to you -- use them the way you see fit. There are certainly far fewer rules regarding punctuation in poetry than in fiction, but whatever you decide should be for a deliberate purpose.
     
  3. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Punctuation in poetry is something that helps define its style. Maybe you prefer a low amount of punctuation. Some people prefer proper punctuation. It depends on the intended effect.

    I personally hate the majority of poetry that is written in all lower case with no punctuation because people think it makes it look "deep" and all that crap.

    As for your example, there's nothing wrong with that. Poetry is about the meter and the rhythm and stuff like that. There's no reason that punctuation couldn't help it, even if there are cases where it hinders it. That's more a case of bad use of any particular thing, though.
     
  4. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Punctuation in poetry, when used well, can add multiple dimensions to a piece. It can act as a guide for the reader, telling him when to pause and, conversely, when not to pause. In this way, it can help create the rhythm and flow. It can help control the reader and lead him to the poem's heart, and much more besides.

    A line break oughtn't cause a seasoned reader to pause, unless it quickly becomes clear the poem isn't using puncuation in this manner. Adding punctuation at line breaks, and/or choosing not to use it, allows for shades of interpretation to creep into the piece - what is assumed on one line can be deformed or perverted on the next as directed by the punctuation, amongst other things. True punctuation artisans can even play with punctuation within a piece, literally boxing off sections or allowing other to run as desired. Moreover, they can, for example, juxtapose plosives with a free flow, or jar sibilants into staccato segments. These may be very useful devices over the career of a poet.

    I think it's clear that I feel it is as important, if not more so, to punctuate poetry as well as prose. I think the poet is failing to use very powerful tools available to him if he doesn't. This said, for punctuation, like anything else in an art form, there is no prescription to follow convention, no need to use it. The artist has full license to do as he pleases. The reader, however, does not have to enjoy the results.

    In most cases, a sense of commercial co-operativeness prevails and a balance therefore struck. Finally, as with most techniques, the power of not using punctuation only truly comes when an appreciation of its power in use is learnt.
     
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  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It's poetry. You should use punctuation, or refrain from using it, as necessary to achieve the artistic end-product you are going for.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    while i find some of that poster's punctuation odd/incorrect, since it's poetry, s/he's allowed to use whatever punctuation s/he wants...

    as a fairly full time poet and mentor/tutor of many aspiring ones, i agree with those above who point out that there can be a great range in the use of punctuation in poetry...

    my own opinion is that each piece has its own need for the use, sparity, or lack thereof... as does each poet...
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Punctuation elements have their own rhythm, and rhythm is an important element of poetry. Line breaks are, in this sense, a form or punctuation poetry owns almost exclusively.

    In general, I would use punctuation in poetry much as I would in prose, and use line breaks to control the rhythm and focus emphasis.

    Periods and commas serve as little more than stops and pauses, respectively. Semicolons would fall between them in pause duration. Question marks and exclamation points bear a meaning beyond mere pauses. Other special characters are open to the poet's interpretation.
     
  8. Radrook
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    Radrook Contributing Member

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    A squinting modifier, which can be understood as modifying a word in its own stanza or the preceding one, can cause a reader to pause. Such confusion can sometimes be easily cleared up via proper punctuation.
     
  9. AfterBroadway
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    AfterBroadway Senior Member

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    This all makes a lot of sense. I guess I expected these answers from you poets.
     
  10. J.P.Clyde
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    J.P.Clyde Prince of Melancholy Contributor

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    When it comes to my poetry. I prefer to use a form of stream of conscious. Which means I do not use punctuation it's meant to be read like the flow of thoughts.
     

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