Punctuation and Capitalization in Poetry - Roy Jerden's Blog

About Roy Jerden
(Show Details...)
Bloggers Photo
You say you want a revolution?
  • Well you know, we all want to change the world

Punctuation and Capitalization in Poetry

Blog Posted:7/18/2014 6:35:00 PM

In many European forms of poetry, it has been traditional to capitalize the first word of every line. To some degree, there has never been a stated rational reason for doing so, it was just the way it was done. The same has been true for the use of periods. In many cases they were not used at all, except in quoted sentences. Other punctuation rules, such as commas, have been generally observed.

Should punctuation and capitalization be used in poetry just as though it were prose? No capitals at the beginning of every line, but only as appropriate. Periods at the end of every sentence?

Anything else? Exceptions?

What are your thoughts?



Please Login to post a comment
Date: 7/20/2014 3:19:00 AM
That is one of the reasons I designed Suzette Prime: No capital letters (unless a proper noun), no punctuation as the line breaks serve this function. Lekker! As for the old style or new style of writing poetry: I would include punctuation in a sonnet, but not in Free Verse. Just my opinion. Greetings all. Love, Su
Login to Reply
Richards Avatar
Suzette Richards
Date: 7/22/2014 7:25:00 AM
That is why I stipulate in Suzette Prime that the line breaks serve as punctuation (or breathing spaces). It becomes more tricky when you have to consider the syllable count in each line as well. It is deceptively easy, until you try it - especially with the longer lines, eg 19 syllables. :-) Have a go, Cyndi. :-)
MacMillan Avatar
Cyndi MacMillan
Date: 7/20/2014 9:25:00 AM
BUT if I were to write about a mindful moment ... say walking through a museum, taking in each artifact, thinking... I would use a great deal of punctuation. As. I. Walk. And. Think. ;)
MacMillan Avatar
Cyndi MacMillan
Date: 7/20/2014 9:23:00 AM
Interesting! For me, it would depend on the subject more than the form. If I am writing about, hmm, say something fast paced and either dark or disturbing.. like the recent shot down Malaysian plane... I would not use much punctuation, which is designed to give pause or slow down the read.
Date: 7/19/2014 7:40:00 AM
http://forum.quoteland.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/7771982046/m/1003911567 WOOOOOOOOOW! I love this! Seriously, this is one of the best blogs I have read on punctuation in poetry. It's power. It's weaknesses. Roy, let me know what you think... interesting, yes? Cheers, off for the day... gonna rain here and I think we'll go bowling. I won't complain about rain... so much horrible stuff going on in the world ... I'm not on topic here... just feeling the horrors of the Ukraine ... the storms hitting our friends around the globe... Syria... so much anguish... :( sorry... will go hug my girl. What a world I've brought her into...
Login to Reply
Richards Avatar
Suzette Richards
Date: 7/22/2014 7:29:00 AM
I fully agree with you an this one, Roy. Even in the written text, people are moving away from all the enforced commas (for eg) as it does not really serve a purpose. Unless it might change the meaning of the sentence: Lets eat Gramma/Lets eat, Gramma. :-)
Jerden Avatar
Roy Jerden
Date: 7/20/2014 10:09:00 AM
That was a good discussion, Cyndi. Just as a trial, I went back and re-punctuated according to prose rules and de-capitalized first words as necessary in my poem called "Willow" to see the effect. I don't care for the result too much, particularly the commas on the end of the lines, which seem redundant. The line break should be enough. Even the colon before the list seems out of place. The line is an entity in poetry and serves purposes, one purpose is a pause, I think.
Date: 7/19/2014 7:31:00 AM
Could not pull up the interview... GRRRRR.... anyway, here is a great blog on the subject.... interesting and thoughtful examination of some good poems and the reasoning behind the use of/or lack of use of punctuation http://sheilapacka.blogspot.ca/2011/08/to-punctuate-or-not.html This is kind of where I am trying to head... make it matter! HUGS.
Login to Reply
Date: 7/19/2014 6:43:00 AM
I've bounced back and forth, exploring what I like and I think it all depends on the poem, perhaps even the subject of the poem. Poetry is NOT prose. I'll find a rant by one of Canada's most recognized literary giants... she sounds snobby, but makes sense that "Poetry is a language all its own." Cheers, Cyndi
Login to Reply
MacMillan Avatar
Cyndi MacMillan
Date: 7/20/2014 9:31:00 AM
The more a poet is willing to pull out of his/her comfort zone and try something different, the better that poet will become. Even those classic writers who we all adore did not play it safe. Some are born with ability. But the majority hone their abilities, yes? Hope you are having a good summer!!! xoxox
MacMillan Avatar
Cyndi MacMillan
Date: 7/20/2014 9:28:00 AM
Andrea, the ability of the person writing poetry is not stagnant. Each poem written, I believe, helps a poet develop his/her skills. So, by playing with punctuation and INDIVIDUALIZING syntax rules for THAT poet (like Cummings,) a VOICE and STYLE is created by the poet. We all stumble with something we have never attempted before or do not attempt often...
Dietrich Avatar
Andrea Dietrich
Date: 7/19/2014 10:52:00 AM
Yes, Cyndi, it all depends on the type of poem. That makes a world of difference in the use of punctuation or not, and also in the ability of the person writing the poem
Date: 7/18/2014 8:34:00 PM
The way modern publishers prefer is for us NOT to capitalize the beginning of each line, well, at least the ones I have investigated. Like Charlotte says here, just write your poem as you would prose, stopping your lines with periods when the sentence is finally finished, and not putting a capital letter until you have begun a new sentence. This is my preferred way. A good writer can get away with not using punctuation. Unfortunately, not many people are clever enough to do proper line breaks; therefore, they produce run-on sentences that are difficult to read. The beauty in punctuation is that when properly used, it eliminates ambiguity in what the author is trying to say. I love it!
Login to Reply
Date: 7/18/2014 8:24:00 PM
yes, the traditional way is to capitalize each line; however, the modern way is to write each line as you would write prose, just capitalizing after a full stop...I had always been in the habit of capitalizing each line, but I reluctantly dropped the habit and I think it reads better the modern way...I've had to go back through my poems removing all the capitals! haha
Login to Reply

My Past Blog Posts

Life in Hell by Matt Groening (creator of The Simpsons)
Date Posted: 11/6/2016 5:17:00 AM
Family Reunion
Date Posted: 5/20/2016 7:29:00 PM
Lucifer Gets the Gig
Date Posted: 3/9/2016 9:45:00 AM
Rindersella and the Pransome Hence
Date Posted: 3/1/2016 1:45:00 PM
Spoonerisms Contest
Date Posted: 2/27/2016 7:45:00 PM
In Defense of Critique
Date Posted: 2/22/2016 3:21:00 PM
I felt wrinkly, so I did some irony.
Date Posted: 2/13/2016 8:11:00 PM
Having some fun with Photoshop...
Date Posted: 1/8/2016 8:05:00 AM
Thanks for your support
Date Posted: 6/3/2015 6:42:00 AM
Hosting multiple open contests.
Date Posted: 5/12/2015 8:23:00 PM
A Sonnet for Pansy
Date Posted: 5/5/2015 8:50:00 AM
My story was published this month
Date Posted: 5/2/2015 9:09:00 PM
Pi Day 2015
Date Posted: 3/13/2015 3:05:00 PM
Foodies - Part 2
Date Posted: 1/7/2015 11:30:00 AM
East Jesus Contest Judged
Date Posted: 1/2/2015 9:21:00 AM
Happy New Year to the World of Poets
Date Posted: 12/31/2014 6:23:00 PM
Merry Christmas to the World of Poets
Date Posted: 12/25/2014 5:54:00 AM
Foodies - Part 1
Date Posted: 12/20/2014 2:01:00 PM
How kids perceive their grandparents
Date Posted: 12/19/2014 5:55:00 AM
Got Writer's Block?
Date Posted: 12/6/2014 8:10:00 AM
Clean and Clever Limerick Contest Update
Date Posted: 11/17/2014 7:51:00 AM
My First Short Story - Accepted for publication
Date Posted: 11/2/2014 6:46:00 PM
Happy Halloween
Date Posted: 10/31/2014 7:18:00 AM
Non-Christian Poetry Contest Update
Date Posted: 10/19/2014 9:05:00 AM
New Contest - Religious Poetry: Non-Christian
Date Posted: 10/5/2014 6:40:00 AM

My Recent Poems

Date PostedPoemTitleFormCategories
3/14/2017 Donald's Blunderland Political Versepolitical,
1/27/2017 Can You Trump That Limerickpolitical,
3/23/2016 One Hit Wonder Quatrainart,poetry,
3/18/2016 But Her Bruises Were Green Limerickhumorous,
2/27/2016 Pussy Paean Quatraincat,
2/24/2016 That Dog Don't Hunt Limerickpoetry,
2/9/2016 Rewind World Quatrainsorry,
2/7/2016 Lucifer Gets the Gig Proseheaven,satire,universe,
2/5/2016 Return to the Sea Free versebeach,death,sea,
1/30/2016 OMG, That's So Cliche Rhymepoetry,satire,
1/24/2016 And When You Look at Me Quaternlove,romance,
1/23/2016 Way Back Then Rhymehumor,humorous,nostalgia,
1/22/2016 The Virgin Witch of Moulineaux Villanellelove,magic,valentines day
1/13/2016 Table Hogs Limericksatire,
1/3/2016 Another Trip Around the Sun Sonnetnew year,
7/6/2015 The Waning of Dreams Coupletdepression,sad,wine,
5/26/2015 Poetic Ambitions Quatrainart,poems,poetry,
5/4/2015 A Song for Pansy Rhymehistory,
4/17/2015 English Lit Rhymehumor,
4/10/2015 Scratch Rhymechildhood,humor,nostalgia
11/29/2014 But I Must Stay Villanellesad,
11/29/2014 The Pedicure Virgin Prosehumor,
11/14/2014 One Tolkien Over the Line Rhymetribute,
11/5/2014 Message of the Moth Coupletangst,longing,
10/25/2014 Pi Day Rhymehumor,
10/15/2014 Halloween on the Dark Side of Town Rhymeholiday,satire,
9/15/2014 The Empty Quarter Alliterationearth,nature,stars,univer
8/5/2014 Piki Tupp and Poteeta Way Quatrainchild,children,
7/22/2014 A Brush of Wings Versebird,
7/8/2014 Willow: A Fable Rhymechildren,death,dream,fant
6/30/2014 Ragnarok: The Storm Epyllionweather,
6/28/2014 Dante's Path Quatrainspiritual,
5/26/2014 Albert Einstein Clerihewhumorous,science,
5/7/2014 Jonah Falcon He's Not Limerickfunny,
5/6/2014 The Well Traveled Linguist Limerickhumorous,
5/2/2014 The Devil Can Cite Scripture For His Purpose Rhymehate,religion,slam,
4/1/2014 My Thunderous Wondrous Electric Toy Train Rhymechristmas,nostalgia,
3/11/2014 Premature Exoneration Limerickholiday,humor,
2/10/2014 A Series of Unfortunate Darwin Awards Limerickdeath,humorous,silly,
1/23/2014 Ancient Dance Sonnetlove,
12/28/2013 The Whittlers Cowboygrowing up,nostalgia,
12/19/2013 Redneck Santa Rhymechristmas,parody,
12/17/2013 The Tale of the China Poblana Epichistory,
5/15/2013 The Conceit of Poetry Coupletphilosophy,universe,
3/23/2013 Tiger's Wood Limericksports,
2/17/2013 All Hat and No Cattle Cowboycowboy,humorous,old,time,
2/10/2013 Dark Temptress Sonnetfood,humorous,passion,
1/30/2013 Icebox Days Rhymechildhood,growing up,humo
1/26/2013 The Angel Inside Rhymeallegory,angel,art,beauti
1/22/2013 Call Me Tex Cowboycowboy,home,humorous,me,n
1/10/2013 Bobcat Moon Rhymeautumn,friendship,loss,mo
12/9/2012 Six Man Dance Rhymeautumn,football,nostalgia
8/27/2012 Kiss of the Eagle Rhymeadventure,space,travel,
8/23/2012 Delicacy of Leaves Rhymehappiness,nature,time,
8/10/2012 Keep It Turnin' to the Right Rhymeday,earth,funny,life,love
8/10/2012 Cruisin' the Drag Rhymecar,funny,growing up,high

My Photos

Fav Poems

Amazement Free verselife,places,voice,
Pearl Diving Quatrainlove,
Slow Movin Tights Balladme,red,women,
That Night We Kissed Rondeauheart,night,
A Voice In The Wind Rhymeimagination,nature,
Sailing the Seas In A Pecan Tree Rhymeadventure,old,
Soul of the Poet Quatrainfarewell,poems,poetess,
Generations Epicbirth,death,hope,life,
Muse Free versewords,writing,
Falling upward Rhymeanger,angst,bereavement,b
No Longer Mourn for Me When I Am Dead Lyricdeath,faith,religious,
Ashen Snow Villanellesad,september,

Fav Poets

Mark Peterson United States Flag United States Read