This may sound a little weird, but recently I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of punctuation more than ever – especially when it comes to writing poetry. And I don’t mean simply the use of standard punctuation – commas, semi-colons and the like – I also mean the absence of punctuation, the freedom to choose not to use it, or even to suggest it in other ways for example with the use of space(s). In some contexts, I think how you punctuate something can be as powerful as the words you use, and can add as much meaning as the words you use.
“Eats shoots and flies” vs. “Eats shoots, and flies” vs. “Eats, shoots, and flies”.
We’re all familiar with his one, aren’t we? The definitive Truss book on the mechanics of punctuation.
When it comes to verse, punctuation is what gives us pace and tempo, and via pace and tempo – as well as grammatical structure – meaning too.
In the narrative prose poem I’m currently working on I’ve been playing with differing structures to create alternate voices, if you will. By playing with structure and punctuation, it’s truly amazing how much flexibility language can give you – and how much it can give back too!
Here’s an example from an early draft.
It might have looked like this:
Shakespeare. You know what to expect don’t you,
even if you hadn’t read or seen any?
Almost as if it were gifted, imbued into your psyche,
part of your dna, your life force.
“The quality of mercy ” and all that shit.
Of course it could have looked like this:
You know what to expect don’t you
. – even if you hadn’t read or seen any.
Almost as if it were gifted,
. imbued into your psyche
. part of your dna
. your life force.
“The quality of mercy”
. and all that shit.
But here’s where I’ve ended up:
shakespeare you know what to expect don’t you
even if you hadn’t read or seen any
almost as if it were gifted imbued into your psyche
part of your dna your life force
the quality of mercy and all that shit
And not a single word changed. A myriad of possibilities, and each one different.
“The Beauty of Punctuation” © !!