Punctuation in Poetry

Punctuation in Poetry

Over the past few months I’ve ramped up my scrutiny and editing of my poetry, trying to get it ready for publication. I’ve learned a few new things about what I like in poetry and I’ve found I like playing with space and punctuation.

We’ve long debated capitalization and punctuation in my writer’s group. I’m of the mind that you punctuate and capitalize as you would any sentence, even though it is broken up by the end of a line.

Now, we know periods create a full stop so that’s a fairly long pause. Commas cause a shorter pause. I believe line breaks create a pause in our brain even if we continue reading. I learned recently that our brains treat written language as a physical terrain, so I liken that line break to stepping over something in your way. You may not be stopping but it slows you up just a little.

At one point I thought to myself, “Oh, I don’t like those short dashes Word is putting in. I think I’d like all long dashes.Then I tried it and realized, “Oh, all long dashes is no good either.”  It was just too much. So I learned more about hyphens (-), En dashes (–) and Em dashes (—) than I thought possible but I also learned how to make them in Word.

And now, it ‘feels’ right, because I was able to use the right punctuation.

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