Young Writers Society

Home » Forums » Resources » Knowledge Base » Poetry Tutorials

Pray Perpetuate Poetry Punctuation

User avatar
1220 Reviews

Gender: None specified
Points: 72525
Reviews: 1220
Tue Jun 29, 2010 8:48 pm
View Likes
Kale says...

Pray Perpetuate Poetry Punctuation


Why Poetry Should Be Grammatically Correct

Poetry: such an expressive, free form, unbound by the rules of mundane grammar, right? The poet can alter the structure, syntax, punctuation, and even the spelling to suit his whim, correct? Not quite.

There is a commonly held belief that writing poetry means one can toss the rules of grammar and spelling out the window. This is only partially true. One of the hallmarks of poetry is its sheer flexibility and freedom of form. However, and this is a big however, standardized grammar and spellings exist for a reason: to make communication possible.

Imagine, if you will, a world with no set rules for written language. Every single word has multiple spellings that vary based upon the writer. Sentence structures and syntax are often drastically different from person to person, with words dropped out at whim and strange words interspersed willy-nilly. But it's freedom of expression, so all is fine since all the writers are doing is expressing themselves, right? Perhaps, but freedom of expression can only be taken so far. If you take this freedom too far, you become incoherent and incomprehensible; it can no longer be said that you are expressing yourself as no one can understand you.

The simple fact of the matter is this: language exists for clear communication. If you abuse the language to a point where your ideas cease being clearly communicable, you are doing something wrong. By breaking the conventions of grammar for shallow reasons such as carelessness or a desire to appear poetic, you are making your poem less coherent and comprehensible. Which, assuming you wrote the poem to share with others, defeats the whole purpose of writing the poem in the first place.

Now, this is not to say that all poetry must always be punctuated. As mentioned before, it is partially true that poetry does not always have to adhere to the conventions of spelling and grammar, and there are cases where following these standards would actually harm the poem. So when is it acceptable to break from language conventions?

There is one case where this is permissible, and that case is when breaking convention clarifies the meaning of your poem.

This is not a common occurrence, but it does happen occasionally. However, and this is another big however, you must, as a writer, have a complete mastery of all aspects of grammar and formatting before you can claim that breaking convention is most beneficial for your poem. Very simply, before you can break the rules without repercussions, you must know them inside and out. Only then will you become acquainted with the exceptions and the loopholes of the language, an acquaintance you can exploit to further enhance your poetry (and all other forms of writing).

Until you master all the aspects of grammar, however, please punctuate your poetry properly, and spell words correctly, and generally adhere to the conventions of grammar. It will make your poetry easier to understand.
Secretly a Kyllorac, sometimes a Murtle.
There are no chickens in Hyrule.
Princessence: A LMS Project

User avatar
315 Reviews

Gender: Female
Points: 62375
Reviews: 315
Tue Nov 16, 2010 8:05 am
View Likes
Navita says...

One of my all-time favourite poems by Johanna Aitchison that appeared in NZ's top lit mag two years ago (she is the former President of NZ Poetry Society, and 2010 winner of the International NZPS Poetry Competition -- I actually met her in person a few weeks ago! *gasp*):


do not enter the water do not drink the water if you drink the water do a drinking free of water dance do not touch the water if you touch the water with a stick wash the stick in a solution of one part dishwashing liquid to 19 parts tap water do not think about the water unless you have washed first


do not write about the stream lapping at your stream do not lap stream do not walk too close in case an unlucky tourist in good shape—perhaps from germany called ingrid—pushes you in do not let the weed grow in your mouth and spit it into another waterway


if you swim in the water but not naked make sure that you wash your mouth and your swimming togs in saline solution


do not enter the stream do not think about how cool the stream would be on your legs do not muse on how the word bounces along your tongue

but what about dreaming you ask the doc ranger am i allowed to dream but what if in my dream the man in the didymo is the largest i have ever seen what if for instance ranger he is say 105 kg of solid muscle and i can ask him things like how many didymos have you killed and was it good for didymo?


Quirky, bizarre, breathless, with a frenetic, warped pulsation emerging from it and beautifully free of punctuation. Beat that.

But if he hadn't said that, Bear Thompson wouldn't have been himself.
— CaptainJack