Member Rara Avis
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.