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Thread: the importance of punctuation or not

  1. #61
    King of Dreams MorpheusSandman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    If capitalization doesn't count, do line breaks?

    Consider this string of words: ... Are they different poems?
    Line breaks certainly count as a type of punctuation, but they count differently in different poems. In some poems, the line breaks are crucial in terms of reading into the meaning, while in others it may be more about rhythm or something else entirely. In Mary Had a Little Lamb, the rhythm is classic ballad meter, a 4-beat/3-beat pattern. 4-beat patterns dominate English lyric and song, and the earliest English verse grew out of 4-beat traditions (Beowulf's alliterative prosody). 4-beat creates a distinct sing-song rhythm that is inescapable. The interesting thing about ballad meter is that it plays off this expectation by leaving the last beat of the sequence silent, making us pause on it before we move on to the next line.

    So, getting back to Mary's Lamb, your first iteration is the classic ballad meter form. The first 4-beat line pairs with the second 3-beat line and we pause at the end of the 3-beat line for the silent, unexpressed 4th beat. When you instead stretch this 7-beat pattern out to a single line, you do de-emphasize this pattern, although readers may slip into it intuitively anyway. What I think the second version does is not allow as much for that invisible last beat. If you read the second line, eg, as one line, you don't hear the 4/3 pattern as much.

    So I wouldn't say they're different poems in terms of meaning, but I do think they're slightly different rhythmically. A better example of someone who exploited line-breaks and the expectations created by the ballad rhythm to its utmost would be Emily Dickinson. One could cite countless examples, but one of her more playful excursions was in "I like to see it lap the Miles:"
    I like to see it lap the Miles -
    And lick the Valleys up -
    And stop to feed itself at Tanks -
    And then - prodigious step

    Around a Pile of Mountains -
    And supercilious peer
    In Shanties - by the sides of Roads -
    And then a Quarry pare

    To fit its sides
    Complaining all the while
    In horrid - hooting stanza -
    Then chase itself down Hill -

    And neigh like Boanerges -
    Then - punctual as a Star
    Stop - docile and omnipotent
    At its own stable door -
    There are numerous examples in this one poem, but I'll point out two: the first comes at the end of S1 and the beginning of S2:

    And then - prodigious step

    Around a Pile of Mountains -

    Instead of ending the sense at L4, as is typical with this meter, Dickinson "steps" the sense all the way over the first stanza and into the second stanza, which mirrors what she's describing about the train "stepping around a pile of mountains". If you change this to:

    And then - prodigious step Around a Pile of Mountains

    then it loses a lot of its affect. You can see a similar device here:

    And then a Quarry pare

    To fit its sides

    Just like she's describing the train paring a quarry, the first line of S3 is "pared" to only 2 beats ("To fit its sides"). One last example would be:

    punctual as a Star
    Stop

    where it's almost as if "Star" becomes an adjective ("Star stop") to the noun "Stop", rather than being a noun followed by the verb "Stop". It's these kind of playful ambiguities that line-breaks can create that, if you wrote it down as prose, you'd lose. I think writing the above as "punctual as a star, stop" is much less effective than the way Dickinson wrote it.
    "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being." --Carl Gustav Jung

    "To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due." --Neil Gaiman; The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists

    "I'm on my way, from misery to happiness today. Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh" --The Proclaimers

  2. #62
    History tells us that we’re not there yet,
    ...
    We have to learn before we can forget.

    The final couplet is:

    Maybe we’ll learn we never get there, yet
    It’s still worth learning things you don’t forget.
    What I'm trying to say comes down to this: If you had left the comma out altogether, an astute reader would be able to infer where the comma should be placed depending on context (from the lines previous and/or following). But that's a lot of needless work, which is what punctuation does well to eliminate.

  3. #63
    King of Dreams MorpheusSandman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by My2cents View Post
    What I'm trying to say comes down to this: If you had left the comma out altogether, an astute reader would be able to infer where the comma should be placed depending on context (from the lines previous and/or following). But that's a lot of needless work, which is what punctuation does well to eliminate.
    Actually, in that context the reader would never be able to infer that the comma should go before "yet" since it's the only line in the poem that puts a comma before "yet" and has the "yet" meaning attached to the following line rather than the line it's on. Saying "not there yet" and "yet it's still worth knowing" are two different things.

    Anyway, punctuation does eliminate such ambiguities, but they can also perpetuate them like in Dickinson's work.
    "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being." --Carl Gustav Jung

    "To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due." --Neil Gaiman; The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists

    "I'm on my way, from misery to happiness today. Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh" --The Proclaimers

  4. #64
    The line break makes it tricky, and if as you say the preceding 'yets' all have commas before them, conditioning the reader to the pattern, it's conceivable no one would get it right. Conceivable. (Some one may catch the dissonance however miniscule and be crazy enough to pursue it's resolution to the ends of the earth--and there such people, I have no doubts.)

  5. #65
    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    A punctuation question:

    What would you say one would put after an exclamation or question mark?
    a capital letter or just a small capital?

    example
    What is one supposed to do? ring a bell or dance around?
    Ring or ring?
    it may never try
    but when it does it sigh
    it is just that
    good
    it fly

  6. #66
    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
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    I would put "Ring" since it would make the grammar checker refrain from marking the area in red and that is what I think someone else, whether reader, publisher or editor, would want to see.

    As a poem, I don't think it matters whether "Ring" is used or "ring", however, it does matter for the presentation which is where the editor or publisher make the decisions. Most of the time the author is also the one who publishes the poem by posting it on a forum and so the same person is doing two tasks.
    Don't forget the poetry contests at http://www.online-literature.com/for...s-amp-Contests

  7. #67
    King of Dreams MorpheusSandman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cacian View Post
    example
    What is one supposed to do? ring a bell or dance around?
    Ring or ring?
    In that example it's "Ring," but if you wrote it: "What is one supposed to do: ring a bell or dance around" then it would be "ring." You can put a colon before an either/or choice and follow that with a lower-case and question mark at the end. You may want to ask AuntShecky, but I'm pretty sure the latter version would actually be, technically, grammatically correct (I could be wrong as it's been a while since I've studied grammar) because in your example you're making two separate questions: "What is one supposed to do?" and "Ring a bell or dance around?" when, given the context, the two options "Ring a bell or dance around" is connected to the question "What is one supposed to do?".
    "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being." --Carl Gustav Jung

    "To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due." --Neil Gaiman; The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists

    "I'm on my way, from misery to happiness today. Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh" --The Proclaimers

  8. #68
    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    I would put "Ring" since it would make the grammar checker refrain from marking the area in red and that is what I think someone else, whether reader, publisher or editor, would want to see.

    As a poem, I don't think it matters whether "Ring" is used or "ring", however, it does matter for the presentation which is where the editor or publisher make the decisions. Most of the time the author is also the one who publishes the poem by posting it on a forum and so the same person is doing two tasks.
    Thank you YesNo.
    I had always questioned the capital usage srtaight after a qestion mark because it did not look right to me.
    About the marking in red is a very recent thing I started to notice.
    I never considered a ! or a? as a full stop before.
    Last edited by cacian; 04-30-2012 at 08:22 AM.
    it may never try
    but when it does it sigh
    it is just that
    good
    it fly

  9. #69
    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MorpheusSandman View Post
    In that example it's "Ring," but if you wrote it: "What is one supposed to do: ring a bell or dance around" then it would be "ring." You can put a colon before an either/or choice and follow that with a lower-case and question mark at the end. You may want to ask AuntShecky, but I'm pretty sure the latter version would actually be, technically, grammatically correct (I could be wrong as it's been a while since I've studied grammar) because in your example you're making two separate questions: "What is one supposed to do?" and "Ring a bell or dance around?" when, given the context, the two options "Ring a bell or dance around" is connected to the question "What is one supposed to do?".
    Thank you Morpheus in other word if it was a stream of questions then they would look like separate entities and not together as a stream of thoughts which I wanted to convey.
    it may never try
    but when it does it sigh
    it is just that
    good
    it fly

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