Thursday, April 26, 2007

poetic punctuation

I’ve got a poem I’ve been working with for awhile about punctuation. I decided now is a good time to talk about it because of the poem of the day from, which deals with the same subject.

Appeal to the Grammarians
by Paul Violi
from (Hanging Loose Press)

We, the naturally hopeful,
Need a simple sign
For the myriad ways we're capsized.
We who love precise language
Need a finer way to convey
Disappointment and perplexity.
For speechlessness and all its inflections,
For up-ended expectations,
For every time we're ambushed
By trivial or stupefying irony,
For pure incredulity, we need
The inverted exclamation point.
For the dropped smile, the limp handshake,
For whoever has just unwrapped a dumb gift
Or taken the first sip of a flat beer,
Or felt love or pond ice
Give way underfoot, we deserve it.
We need it for the air pocket, the scratch shot,
The child whose ball doesn't bounce back,
The flat tire at journey's outset,
The odyssey that ends up in Weehawken.
But mainly because I need it—here and now
As I sit outside the Caffe Reggio
Staring at my espresso and cannoli
After this middle-aged couple
Came strolling by and he suddenly
Veered and sneezed all over my table
And she said to him, "See, that's why
I don't like to eat outside."
The poem made me laugh out loud and also made me go back to my poem and make the necessary choices to finish it. Here is my offering.
Can You Help Me?

I would gladly give up
the exclamation point!
or eliminate the ellipsis . . .
in exchange for more
interrogative punctuation.

The single combination of
curve and dot is not
enough to delineate
and describe the
questions I have.

I need marks that
reflect what I’m asking:
is there any milk?
is not the same question as
will you forgive me?

How are you?
The question is in dire
need of punctuation to
differentiate between
compassion and pleasantry.

I have casual questions,
rhetorical questions,
nagging questions,
philosophical questions.
You're up to the challenge;

you did so well with the semi-colon.
That’s all for today. Period.



Anonymous said...

Years before e-mail a friend of mine invented the sarcasterisk (backwards s over an asterisk), and I have found it useful! Now you've got me thinking....

redbarn said...

A delightful invitation to ponder our words and points - and now I'm not sure how to punctuate my statement... ? ! >

Crafty Green Poet said...

Interesting poem, but would we risk being over-run with punctuation! Most of us struggle enough with the punctuation marks we've got?

Hedwyg said...

Awesome! That's an incredible poem, Milton. Thank you!

Peace and blessings,

Cecilia said...

Oh. The lines I love best are:

is there any milk?
is not the same question as
will you forgive me?

Yes, indeed. Lovely. Grabbed my heart.

Pax, C.