Punctuation in Poetry -Meaning and importance of punctuation marks in poetry

Punctuation in Poetry -Meaning and importance of punctuation marks in poetry

What is a Punctuation Mark?

Punctuation can be regarded as a grammatical mark, such as a comma or a period which is used in a piece of writing to separate sentences, and their elements and to clarify the meaning of the sentence as well as the piece of writing.

How important is the use of Punctuation Marks in both English and Literature?

Regardless of the form or piece of writing, the use of punctuation marks is very vital in both literature and the English language as a whole. This is due to a number of reasons such as:

  • It tells the readers of the piece when to stop, pause, answer questions as well as carry out other important functions relating to the piece.
  • It adds precision and clarity to a particular sentence.
  • It aids the writer in emphasizing particular aspects of a sentence.
  • It makes literary devices appear more pronounced and realistic.

In a general sense, the English language and its counterparts will appear much more difficult and confusing without the use of punctuation marks. Look at these two sentences with and without punctuation marks.

Okay shoot Gwen replied

‘Okay, Shoot’. Gwen replied.

When comparing and contrasting both sentences, it is clear that the first look a lot like different words placed together side by side with no meaning at all. Whereas the second looks entirely different and more meaningful, this is the power of a few punctuation marks. Similarly, let’s take a look at these two sentences, with and without punctuation marks.

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Let’s eat Mary

Let’s eat, Mary.

When comparing and contrasting both sentences, it is clear that both of them have entirely different meanings, the first considers ‘Mary’ as the meal to be eaten, whereas, the second is inviting ‘Mary’ to eat an unspecified meal.

Without the use of punctuation marks in the statement provided, the reader will be unable to easily pick out the ideal meaning of the statement, thus making the piece very confusing indeed. On this note, the aim of this article is to emphasize the vitality of the use of punctuation marks in poetry as well as to provide a list of the most popular punctuation marks which can be used in poetry.

What is Poetry?

Poetry, in a nutshell, can be regarded as a literary work, either long or otherwise, whereby the ideas and feelings associated with the work are expressed with a high level of intensity. This mainly comes from the particular or combined use of diction, imagery, rhyme, rhythm as well as other forms of literary devices.

Similarly, poetry, otherwise regarded as ‘verse’ can also be defined as a form of literature which largely dwells on the intense use of artistic or rhythmic use of languages such as metre and sound symbolism to invoke the feelings of the reader and give the piece multiple meanings. A poem, on the other hand, is simply an artistic piece, often written by a poet, with the apt application of this principle.

Is the use of punctuation marks important in poetry?

It was fore mentioned in this article that the use of punctuation marks is very important in Literature and the English Language as a whole. It was also stressed that such importance is necessary because it gives clarity, meaning and precision to specific sentences in the piece of writing.

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This also implies that the use of punctuation marks is as important in poetry as it is in prose, drama and other forms of writing. However, the way punctuation marks are used in different forms of writing tends to vary. For example, in prose, it is important for writers to use punctuation marks in a particular way, this is done so that the piece will be more meaningful or explanatory to the readers.

In poetry, however, poets are graced with something called ‘Poetic License’, this gives them the privilege to tweak the use of punctuation marks in order to attribute different meanings to a particular sentence or phrase. For instance, let’s compare and contrast the use of punctuation marks in both prose and poetry.

For prose:

He was originally given the name ‘Lance’ at birth. But, as he grew older and became more lanky as the years dribbled by, his friends began to call him ‘Lanky’. Well, it was unintentional, at first, more like a description; ‘that Lanky boy over there’, ‘you know, Lance, the lanky dude’, ‘Talk to Lanky over there’. Both names were so similar and fairly stressful to call in one sentence, it was easier to settle for just one instead.

For poetry:

Dinner tonight comes with gun wounds.

Our dessert tongues lick the vegetable blood – the pepper strong enough to push scorpions up our heads. Guests look into the oceans of bowls as vegetables die on their tongues’

(From ‘The Dinning Table’ by Gbanabom Hallowell)

Both genres made use of punctuation marks, in prose, these punctuation marks were used to describe the name of the proposed character in a way that will be very understandable to every reader. In the poetic piece, however, these punctuation marks were used to add more complexity to the verses in the poem.

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What are the popular types of punctuation marks which are used in poetry?

A poem is almost like a deep, intense and emotionally ridden song. The terminologies used to describe the parts of a song are closely similar to that of a poem. For instance, lines or verses are used to describe the sentences in both pieces and stanzas are used to describe the chapters in both pieces.

On this note, it is only fair that the punctuation marks used in both instances will be closely similar and also very different from that of prose and its counterparts. Hence, a punctuation mark can be added either at the beginning, middle or end of the verse.

Hence, the popular forms of punctuation marks which can be used in a poem include; a period (which is used in place of a full-stop), a hyphen, a colon, a semi-colon, a comma, a quotation mark, a question mark and, an exclamation mark.

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