Monday, October 8, 2012

Red Pens and Poetry

An excellent morning. I met some fellow members for a Red Pen Posse in Waterlooville Library for some focused editing.

Now I like AND read poetry. I'm often amazed by how many poets never read it. Recently I've rediscovered my love of poetry after a David Swann lecture at Portsmouth Writing Hub and I often wish I could express myself in that way. If there is something wrong with a piece I can usually spot where it jars but I'm often at a loss how to rectify it.

Today I was lucky to be working with three poets (two of them have got an MA in Creative Writing). And in a few minutes I learnt a lot.

We discussed punctuation in poetry and how the end of the line can naturally provide that punctuation without the comma people feel the need to put there. I vaguely remembered terms like enjambment and of course Joyce Kilmer use of it in Trees. Not to mention Alexander Pope, An Essay on Men for a famous example of caesura from the far distant past. But it was only this morning that the penny dropped and it finally made sense.

Pace in poetry is influenced by the rhythm of the words of course BUT it is also influenced by the amount and kind of punctuation used.

The general rule: the more punctuation, the slower the poem will read. Punctuation is not the only factor influencing a reader’s pace, but it is an important influence. When punctuation occurs at the end of a line, it is called an end-stopped line. A run-on line, also known as an enjambment, occurs if there is no punctuation at the end of the line, or if the idea expressed in one line is continued on in the next.

Today I was really able to step back and focus on the punctuation. Enjambment definitely urges the reader to move to the next line without pausing.

A mark of punctuation that comes within the line itself is called a caesura. Caesuras cause the reader to pause or stop in the middle of a line. This is a way of providing a clear break in thought or slowing the pace of the poem. I've played around with this before and I've never been happy with the final result. For some reason today I realised the punctuation marks were all pauses in pace. It's strange when you finally 'get' a concept.

I received some great criticism on a story I'm working on for a complete different genre - adult fiction. And I discovered that a new member was hiding outstanding editing skills, she found something on nearly every other line. So I have decided to take an envelope with a cash gift in to my next Writers at Lovedean meeting at Friday with some work I want to self publish in the hope that I can bribe her to give it a bit of a going over with the red pen!

Afterwards we even had time for a coffee and a cake. So chilled and inspired I'm hoping to get 45 minutes to make the changes in my manuscript.

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