It never ceases to surprise me how many poets, for no apparent reason, don't use punctuation. There are cases where this works wonders (thank you ee cummings), but for the most part, I appreciate punctuation and miss it when it's gone.

I suppose there's the potential that a poem will look cleaner or more modern when words float freely and unencumbered on the page, but it can also look incomplete, like a cat with a piece of its ear missing or a lizard without its tail.

Punctuation is one of the most valuable tools I have as a poet. One could argue that no punctuation is itself a form of punctuation. Nevertheless, I wouldn't throw it away lightly. I've heard of a Japanese building style (and a good joke) that's all tongue and groove, but you have to be a precision craftsperson to achieve lasting results with this technique. These people were building shrines. They invented zen.

How do I love punctuation? Let me count the ways:
  1. Punctuation allows me to pause mid-sentence, take a breath, soutenu and keep on dancing without having to break my line.
  2. I can say "Merde," and everyone knows it.
  3. Fragments? No problem.
  4. My favorite punctuation mark—the emdash, baby.
  5. I can even invent my own whim-of-the-moment adjective.
  6. Or I could go on in the fashion of Marcel Proust, except instead of talking about tea and madeleines, little girls and toy boats (wait, maybe that was a different book), I'd rant for at least four pages with no period in sight about when to capitalize the first word of a phrase after a colon (: You must change your life) and when not to (: your money or your life), although there are poets who eschew the colon and its poor cousin the semicolon entirely; but I wouldn't want to bore you, especially since no discussion of punctuation could be as revelatory as a passage by Proust—if you can just make it through to the end.
  7. Punctuation is there to help you throw words around the ring, fashion them into intricate coils, breathe air and light into them, ball them up into tight wads with which to pellet the reader or spin them into seductive silks.
Use it sparingly or with abandon. But if you're tempted to drop punctuation altogether, please be sure it's for a very good reason.

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