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Passions in Poetry

Is Grammar Out of Style?

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Alison
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0 posted 09-07-2009 12:29 PM       View Profile for Alison   Email Alison   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Alison

Has spelling, punctuation and contractions become passe'?  If so, is this because we now communicate with keyboard shortcuts or is it because we have grown to think that anyone who cares about such things is a "Grammar Nazi"?  

Do you think that grammatical rules are not important in poetry?

Thanks for taking the time to enlighten me.

Alison
brneyedgrly
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1 posted 09-07-2009 01:34 PM       View Profile for brneyedgrly   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for brneyedgrly


I do think it is important in writing...

but I was the one in Jr. High who loved

to diagram sentences and all that English stuff

the rules are tricky sometimes, but

yes...I think it's important



Amberzlynnc
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2 posted 11-02-2010 03:47 AM       View Profile for Amberzlynnc   Email Amberzlynnc   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Amberzlynnc's Home Page   View IP for Amberzlynnc

^ ^ I agree.
Sunshine
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3 posted 11-02-2010 04:36 PM       View Profile for Sunshine   Email Sunshine   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Sunshine's Home Page   View IP for Sunshine

There are poems that run along, skipping
from line to line with such skill that a
period or comma or any other punctuation is
not required [and this, for me, is a functioning
part of grammar...]

but when I see cyberspeak and "cool" keynotes
for specific words that might be easy to read
in poetry?

I am immediately turned off. Unless and of
course it's a parody on such writing. Then
I can see the joke.

But when done in a poem that supposes to be
serious...I see it as a lack of quality
and it truly takes away from the poet's poem.
Marilyn
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4 posted 11-20-2010 01:47 PM       View Profile for Marilyn   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Marilyn

I too believe it is important. Writing is supposed to be the use of the English language at it's finest.
Balladeer
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5 posted 11-20-2010 04:31 PM       View Profile for Balladeer   Email Balladeer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Balladeer's Home Page   View IP for Balladeer

I asked my grammar and she said no!
Nan
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6 posted 11-20-2010 06:25 PM       View Profile for Nan   Email Nan   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Nan's Home Page   View IP for Nan

Well, my grammah (note the Boston accent) says, "yes."

Using proper punctuation and the correct case of pronouns is absolutely important in writing.  Call me a grammah Nahnzi - That's fine with me!
Fabiani
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7 posted 04-10-2011 03:55 PM       View Profile for Fabiani   Email Fabiani   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Fabiani

it can be attributed to Laziness or just plain not knowing your audience. i made the mistake of being a teenager on this site about 5 years ago and learned quickly to stop using U-you or ne-any... etc etc

ill admit that grammar is not my strong point but its importance doesn't fall deaf on me.

[This message has been edited by Fabiani (04-10-2011 04:53 PM).]

Bob K
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8 posted 04-10-2011 04:28 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K


     Poetry lives along the living line of advance of the language.  If we, as poets, were spending our time as grammar nazis, we'd still be speaking church latin or middle English.  Both of these are swell languages, but quite a distance from modern English.  A lot of the so-called grammar rules we spend time defending may not even be actual rules for modern English at all, but rules imposed om English by folks who tried to import them from latin, where they might have made sense.

     And yes, some contractions, are out of style.  I was reading Byron's Don Juan — rhymes with "new one"  and not the more familiar "lawn."  He used "'"t is"  and "'t was" with clockwork frequency.  Neither contraction is used any more.  And our mode of address for surgeons is Dr. while the English still use the more traditional Mr, without the concluding period.  Their sense of history is different, and they retain the memory of surgeon's connections with a much lower class activity and tend not to think of them as physicians.  In fact most of the folks we think of over here as Doctors they tend not to think of as actual real physicians, and they do not honor with the initials M.D. after their names, though over here they would still be qualified as physicians.

     Economics and class.

     As speakers of modern english, we want our constructions to be generally comfortable to other folks who grew up speaking modern english.  As poets, we want our constructions to delight them, which suggests that we take the occasional shot at putting in words and phrases that haven't been smuggled into the language of poetry before and yet might prove to be delightful there.  This means we need to take risks.

     So the answer to Allison would need to include a request for more information about Whose grammar and which vocabulary she's talking about.  Words that some folks find perfectly acceptable — "oorts," for example, or "pelf" both used by Galway Kinnell in The Book of Nightmares — I would hesitate to use. On the other hand, I love using nonstandard words or slang words in print to press the envelope.  A lot of editors seem to like that as well.

     What are your values on the matter?
Alison
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9 posted 04-10-2011 06:47 PM       View Profile for Alison   Email Alison   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Alison

Thank you, Bob, for your response.  Change is inevitable.  

I am tired and did not read my own original question.  I think that grammar and spelling can be used creatively in poetry.

However, I also believe that those who respond to discussion about their use of grammar as "Grammar Nazis" are not using grammar incorrectly intentionally.

There is a difference in intentional use and ignorance.  

That's how I see it.

A
Bob K
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10 posted 04-10-2011 10:04 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



     You should know how to use it well enough so that you don't ruffle the feathers of other speakers and readers of the language, Alison.  I'm not trying to ruffle your feathers here or anybody else's.  I'd like to ask, though, if there are uses of grammar and language in poetry that you find particularly delightful.  Are there pieces of language and grammar that you've included in your own poetry that you're particularly proud of and that make you feel pleased, that maybe bring a smile to your face for having pulled something special off.

     I think with some pleasure of Jim Simmerman in this regard, managing to pull off a line like "Moon go away, I don't love you any more."  Or Philip Levine who managed to work "Not this Pig!" into a poem.  What about Robert Frost who got away with "Something there is that doesn't love a wall," in the passive voice yet!

     While the defence of grammar is useful, there's also a certain delight in what you can put into a line.

     Sometimes these can flip on you and you end up with real howlers, but sometimes, too, you can get really decent pieces of poetry out of them, and revision is there to make sure the truely ugly howlers gon't get out.
Ron
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11 posted 04-11-2011 02:14 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
While the defence of grammar is useful, there's also a certain delight in what you can put into a line.

Only for writers, Bob.

Words and grammar are tools, and while it's fine to admire your tools (any good craftsman does), I don't think we should ever forget that they ARE tools.

Art, I think, is supposed to take you some place.

That's a crappy definition, of course, but I've never seen a definition of art that wasn't crappy. Still, I think anyone who has stood in front of a Picasso line drawing for twenty minutes without being aware twenty minutes had passed, or lost themselves in a good book for hours on end, knows exactly what I mean. Art is as much escape as it is discovery.

The trouble with bad grammar, in my opinion, and Bob, I think this can also be true of those clever lines, is that it can too easily jar the reader out of that place you wanted to take them. "Oh, look what I just read," the reader unconsciously says to himself. And it doesn't greatly matter whether the stone they just stumbled on was horrible punctuation or a delightful turn of phrase, not if it yanks them back from where they were feeling the message you wanted them to experience. The writer must be aware of his tools every single moment; the reader, however, shouldn't see them at all.

I believe every poem, every story, every work of art, should have a purpose. Anything that detracts from that purpose, be it poor grammar or picturesque phrases, should be eliminated.

That is not to say there isn't room for deviations from accepted practices, of course. The misplaced comma, the varied beat, the idiosyncratic word, these are all tools, too, tools than can sometimes be used to change the pace, change the mood, to push and pull the reader to where we want them to go. We just have to always remember that "where we want them to go" is the deciding factor.


serenity blaze
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12 posted 04-11-2011 06:05 AM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

Sometimes you might want to jar a person out of that place you brought them to, though. (I've been searching for an old thread--it was a trial thread started in a discussion forum, I believe.)

I'm having a lot of dark before dawn in mah haid, here, but I do believe it was a Poe poem up for discussion, and drat me for forgetting the name, but I do remember that not only had Poe used punctuation, he had relied heavily on the exclamation point!!!

(like that)

Not the usual for Poe, either, but if someone can find that thread, I think it might contribute to the conversation for Ali.

I've been asking this same question for years, not just of others, but of myself. There seems to be a rule of thumb that if you can't master punctuation in poetry, then you should not utilize it all.

I happen to think that a well-placed semi-colon, dash, or italics can make a considerable difference, not just regarding interpretation, but in meter as well.

There is still an ongoing argument regarding whether or not punctuation can be utilized to mark the place of a "beat or syllabic count in metered poetry, too.

I think that it can, since a period creates a natural "stop" in the reader's mind.

But I agree with Ron on this particular instance--when style, be it punctuation (or lack thereof) detracts from the emotion, it's not only unnecessary, it's ...not necessary.



"One man's ceiling is another man's floor..."
Nan
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13 posted 04-11-2011 09:11 AM       View Profile for Nan   Email Nan   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Nan's Home Page   View IP for Nan

When I'm teaching students, whether algebra or English grammar, I stress to them that they MUST learn the proper rules before they can use their tools.  

I love to teach them shortcuts and alternative ways to find mathematical answers, and I reinforce grammar and punctuation long past the time the schools include them in their curriculum.  I am definitely a grammar Nazi.

Most importantly, I teach them that they can't properly BREAK the rules unless they know them first!

Ron
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14 posted 04-11-2011 11:09 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
Sometimes you might want to jar a person out of that place you brought them to, though.

Absolutely, Karen. But then that's the new place you want them to go. And all the same rules apply again.

Not sure what Poe poem you're referencing; the only one I distinctly recall discussing in the forums was Alone, which has not a single exclamation point in it. It could have been many other poems, though, because yea, Poe used the exclamation point a LOT. Examples would include The Bells, Bridal Ballad, The City in the Sea, and especially The Coliseum.

I don't, however, recall any poem where he exclaimed his exclamation points!!!

quote:
"One man's ceiling is another man's floor..."

Right up until the next earthquake.


Essorant
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15 posted 04-11-2011 02:13 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Actually I find most people do have fairly good grammar because one can't completely avoid it if he wish the language to work well for him.  Though even with generally good grammar people may persist with little things like "It is me"(instead of it is I)  or "if he wishes" instead of "if he wish" (subjunctive mood) because it has become so ingrained among habits.  Oh well.   Good grammar can still be good (enough) grammar, even if it is not perfect grammar.  

Sometimes it depends on the art.  If you sing very well and have a pleasant voice, the experience is more in the effectivness of your voice and music and a grammar mistake is less likely to make much of a difference.  I doubt anyone is put off by "Was we..." at the beginning of this song: Witness to Your Love. Having a nice voice makes a difference!  

It is much more difficult to get away with something like that in Poetry though because our attention is usually much more focused on the language itself.  

[This message has been edited by Essorant (04-11-2011 03:20 PM).]

Bob K
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16 posted 04-11-2011 08:38 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



     Emily Dickinson.
Sunshine
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17 posted 04-11-2011 09:53 PM       View Profile for Sunshine   Email Sunshine   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Sunshine's Home Page   View IP for Sunshine

I stress to them that they MUST learn the proper rules before they can use their tools. ...or even, "break" their tools.

And THIS made me think of Jack Benny....he had to "break" the rules, but not before he knew them very well.

Bob K
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18 posted 04-12-2011 02:23 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



     "WELL!"
              —Jack Benny
serenity blaze
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19 posted 04-13-2011 12:21 AM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze



Once upon a time, I would have looked for that thread--perhaps not Poe--when it all bleeds together, perhaps I need more than a band-aid.

*chuckle*

But then, once upon a time you used to scare the crap out of me every time you popped in, too. You still do. A little bit.

jwesley
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20 posted 01-28-2012 09:09 PM       View Profile for jwesley   Email jwesley   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jwesley

I try, sometimes, but always lapse back to what's comfortable.

I flunked grammar, so it's a mote point with me anyway. Like rhyming, if I could, I would, but am stuck with the way it gets put down - for the most part.

I enjoy reading good construction (pretty well do know it when I see it but can't do it or explain it)but not to the point of 'stilted' construction.

So, yes, I think to a point it's important, especially the basics, but not necessarily to the point of being diagrammatically correct.

As I said (laughing) - I flunked all that, so why would I think it's important???

j.
Stumpjumper
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21 posted 12-12-2012 02:51 AM       View Profile for Stumpjumper   Email Stumpjumper   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Stumpjumper

'Has spelling, punctuation and contractions become passe'?'

Or rather, 'Have spelling, punctuation...'

Poor grammar is endemic. There are now TV news presenters and print journalists who have never studied formal grammar. Worse, there are many schoolteachers - including those teaching English - who have never been taught formal grammar. The result is quite predictable.
Stumpjumper
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22 posted 12-12-2012 02:56 AM       View Profile for Stumpjumper   Email Stumpjumper   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Stumpjumper

Good grammar is important in poetry, just as it is in prose.

You can break the rules, but you should be sure you know what you're doing, lest your clever rule-breaking be mistaken for ignorance.

KAM39
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23 posted 09-23-2014 09:29 AM       View Profile for KAM39   Email KAM39   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for KAM39

I am guilty of bad punctuation and grammer but those things are easily edited. The poem itself comes from a place within the person's soul. So, I personally think the most important part of the poem is the picture it paints with the words chosen from within and sometimes what has been viewed as a mistake may actually be what created the beauty in the first place. Not always but yes, sometimes.
 
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