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 Poets.org, 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.



    1. 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….

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