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Per Diem/Haiku of the Day for July 2022: Punctuation

Per Diem/Haiku of the Day for July 2022 features Guest Editor Patricia McGuire’s collection on the theme of Punctuation. This is what Patricia has to say by way of introduction to this theme:

What’s the point of punctuation?

You punctuate to give your reader a sense of where to pause, to stop, to exclaim, to question, to muse on what you have written, to give your piece a sense of rhythm and even to evoke certain emotions. Your punctuation offers clues to your reader.

At a subconscious level when you create your poem you punctuate to get it just the way you want it, don’t you? Yet in contemporary haiku we are seeing relatively few haiku and senryu with punctuation. Why is that do you think?

Have we forgotten how to punctuate?

Do educators spend less time on punctuation than in the dark ages when I was being put through my paces in the education system?

You’ve probably heard it expressed that if a poem is strong enough it doesn’t need punctuation! Should you write in stream of consciousness sentences and hope that if your ideas are strong enough your reader will pick them out? There is a place for that, but perhaps not in haiku.

One of your goals as a haiku poet is to show not tell. Where does punctuation come into this? I hope to show you with these examples, that it can be a discreet pointer, a clue for the reader of your haiku or senryu. The key is not to go overboard with your punctuation. Use it as you would your choice of word. As every word has its place in your poem, so does punctuation. Used badly and this suggestive tool could distract your reader from developing a relationship with your poem.

As with each word choice you make, ask yourself whether to punctuate there will be times that the answer is no. In some cases it can and does spoil the flow of a poem. It is possible that it will steer your reader too overtly in a direction, curtailing their imagination.

My contention is that you should not abandon punctuation. Keep it in your poets’ toolbox and use it when you think it will make your haiku stronger.

Wherever you are on the spectrum of liking or disliking punctuation in haiku I hope that you can enjoy this selection of punctuated haiku, chosen because I think the punctuation adds to the strength of the piece of work.

—Patricia McGuire (https://poetrypea.com/)

This Post Has 30 Comments

  1. From ‘unusual’ punctuation, although I’ve never used a netstat:
    “The linux version of netstat uses a notation of : where the IP address is displayed bare. So :::111 means an IP of :: . . .”

    .

    one by one by one
    the single leaf once many
    42,000000|24|7

    Alan Summers
    Nick Virgilio Association Haiku in Action (May 2022)

    .

    I do like a good comma inserted in a haiku, here’s one of mine:

    cumulo, cumulo
    the rook and chimney
    gleam with dew

    Alan Summers
    Heliosparrow (April 2022)

    .

    remember, remember
    the bonfires of vanities…
    flickering gunfire

    .
    Alan Summers
    Twitter post (February 5th 2022)

    .

    EROTEMEs, to use or not to use? 😉

    .

    silver bullet(s) where wolf whither goest thou?

    .
    Alan Summers
    proletaria politics philosophy phenomena ed. Elancharan Gunasekaran (December 2019)
    three so1oku by Alan Summers
    https://proletaria.org/2019/12/19/three-so1oku-by-alan-summers/

    .
    am I the ghost
    of a child who died before me?
    autumn deepens

    Alan Summers
    Haiku Novine
    ed. Saša Važić & Dragan J Ristić (December 2012)

    .
    And who doesn’t like a good accent or two? 🙂

    .

    sending signals rhubarb & cardamom crème brûlée

    Alan Summers

    Australian Haiku String “Winter Solstice Haiku String 2021”

    .

  2. “Dem are narco cops.”
    What do you recall about
    those days, Rich? “Da broads.”

  3. Here’s a revised version of my first haiku attempt:

    strawberry moon . . .
    the sweet smell
    of her bouquet

    1. Hi Sharon,

      re:
      Here’s a revised version of my first haiku attempt:

      strawberry moon . . .
      the sweet smell
      of her bouquet

      Lovely!

      We can read it as if someone’s imagination is in full flood believing the moon has a floral scent.

      Or someone is arriving back home after a long day, and has to commute, and bought themselves a bunch of flowers, to cheer up a take out or cheap dinner or supper.

      Or someone else has bought flowers, a partner or family member bringing a bouquet from a late closing shop or supermarket at a train station or nearby, as a surprise.

      And other ideas can be gleaned too! 🙂

      strawberry moon . . .
      the sweet smell
      of her bouquet

      or

      strawberry moon . . .
      the sweeter smell
      of her bouquet

      warm regards,
      Alan

    1. Dear Sharon,

      It’s a lovely verse, although in the Northern Hemisphere the Strawberry moon is June:
      https://edition.cnn.com/2022/06/13/world/strawberry-full-moon-june-2022-scn/index.html

      As haiku often have seasonal references that tell us which month, and Strawberry moon already does that, could you change ‘June’ in the last month to something different? Perhaps not fruit, maybe something social you would do in a vacation perhaps? Or did you see fruit bats or birds? Or was the moon over a famous building?

      .
      corn moon . . .
      the jackdaw shifts
      its iris

      Alan Summers
      Asahi Shimbun (International Haiku Day 2015, Japan)

      NOTE:
      the corn moon or green corn moon is the August moon
      .
      or:

      .

      do atoms speak?
      the Paschal moon
      over Notre Dame

      Alan Summers
      anthology credit: EarthRise Rolling Haiku Collaboration 2019 -Year of Indigenous Languages

      NOTE:
      https://www.farmersalmanac.com/what-is-a-paschal-full-moon-12039

      1. Thanks for your great suggestions Alan. Much appreciated. I’ll see what I can do.

    2. Thanks for your great suggestions Alan. Much appreciated. I’ll see what I can do.

  4. I enjoyed reading your discussion of punctuation in haiku. I think that there are times when it is helpful to see what the poet had in mind such as a pause where normally you wouldn’t have read a pause or unique designations… like the {{{{woodpecker}}}} . It is also possible that the reader doesn’t agree but it’s all part of the writer/reader relationship!

    1. Hi Linda,

      re:
      “I think that there are times when it is helpful to see what the poet had in mind such as a pause where normally you wouldn’t have read a pause or unique designations…”

      Good points, although surprisingly I have found that some readers, moreso if they are not regular readers with haiku, or even very new to haiku, but are creative writers themselves, might still ignore the visible grammar/punctuation marks that has been included in a haiku. Go figure! 🙂

      re using something unique, this haiku was turned down a few times, with ‘conventional’ haikai journals, but I knew I could rely on Weird Laburnum! 🙂

      .

      the many curves and turns of its grammar ^>(|).(|)<^

      .
      Alan Summers
      Sōzō-mono sequence
      Weird Laburnum ed. Michael O’Brien (September 2020)
      https://weirdlaburnum.wordpress.com/2020/09/01/sozo-mono-sequence/

      .
      re:

      .

      as sunlight slants
      across the side of a fence
      are footsteps lonely?

      Alan Summers
      The Japan Society (Haiku Corner, June 2020)

      .
      I do have the eroteme (?) but kept other grammar out of sight.

      I hope some readers have seen the invisible clues, and perhaps with a non-conventional publication I could have submitted the visible version:

      e.g.

      a)s sunlight slants
      a)cross the side of a fence
      a)re footsteps lonely?

      or

      .a) as sunlight slants
      a) across the side of a fence
      a) are footsteps lonely?

      I added the eroteme, even though I feel it's redundant, because non-grammatically it adds a note of poignancy.

      as sunlight slants
      across the side of a fence
      are footsteps lonely?

      Publication credit: The Japan Society (Haiku Corner, June 2020)

  5. Another thing that might have been forgotten was that it was less inspiring back in the 1990s and early 2000s to see almost every single haiku have a dash (often accidentally a hyphen by mistake) at the end of the first line or second line.

    The other common feature was the ellipsis at the end of the first or second line.

    But MOSTLY every haiku seemed to be a 1-line fragment followed by a 2-line phrase, and each haiku containing a “dash” or ellipsis.

    It felt like a forest of hyphens, dashes, and dots, and distracted from the words, and from the phrasing.

    Thankfully there is far more variety in presenting the actual words, and also more fun using punctuation.

    As haiku is more like two incomplete or failed sentences, using three micro-phrases, to somehow create more cohesion and adherency, and build a poem out of air, invisibility, and just a few words, it is useful to be wary of the dots and dashes and be parsimonious and sparing.

    .
    I have seen plenty of haiku written with two periods/endstops and even three periods! These telegram STOP effects can be really juddering and exhausting.

    Having said that, of course we still love our dots and dashes! 🙂

    .
    creeping frost . . .
    how the bamboo forest
    gathers its tendrils

    Alan Summers
    Publication credit: Asahi shimbun (Japan) September 17th 2021
    .

    baby photos

    from my birth mother . . .
    how do I say hello to me


    Alan Summers
    Publication credit: The Heron’s Nest (Vol XIV, No. 2, June, 2012)
    Feature: The Haiku Foundation’s Per Diem: Children ed. Sonam Chhoki (December 2012)

    .
    An ellipsis as visual concrete imagery suggesting footprints up to and away from the famous illustration of a news vender’s booth:

    .

    second dates . . .
    Norman Rockwell snow
    holds the front page

    Alan Summers
    Journeys 2015, An Anthology of International Haibun
    ed. Angelee Deodhar ISBN 978-1515359876

    .
    INVISIBLE ELLIPSIS:

    .
    lighter skies
    the sparrows join up
    most of my dots

    Alan Summers
    The Haiku Pond ed. Anthony Nanfito

    .
    “DASHES”

    .

    umbilical cord–

    a space man’s
    first
baby steps

    Alan Summers
    Commission:
    Rocket Dreams Haiku Performance
    U.K. National Poetry Day October 4th 2007 / World Space Week
    with Space Historian Piers Bizony and NASA images

    Feature: The Haiku Foundation’s Per Diem: Children ed. Sonam Chhoki (December 2012)

    .
    hard frost–
    the snail-hammerings
    of a song thrush

    Alan Summers
    Muttering Thunder vol. 1, 2014 ed. Allan Burns
    Haiku Calendar credit: The Haiku Calendar 2016 (Snapshot Press, 2015)
    Award Credit: Runner-up, The Haiku Calendar Competition 2015

    .

    Toshugu shrine pines
    I try to stay as still–
    mist and dew

    .
    Alan Summers
    First publication credit: Hermitage ed. Ion Codrescu (Romania 2005)
    Articles:
    World Haiku Review Japan Article – Vending machines and cicadas (March 2003);
    Travelogue on World Haiku Festival 2002 Part 1 (Akita International Haiku Network, Japan 2010)

    Anthology: We Are All Japan ed. Robert D. Wilson & Saša Važić (Karakia Press 2012)
    Collection: The In-Between Season (With Words Pamphlet 2012)

  6. Isn’t the guiding principle that punctuation must add something necessary to the ku, which would be less effective if it were taken out? For example:

    end of life . green apples

    — Peter Jastermsky
    Cold Moon Journal, December 20, 2021

      1. Or pictorially – not quite the same as a concrete haiku:

        horizon my .

        And getting back to mainstream punctuation, there’s a world of difference between “lightning flash —” and
        “thunder rolling . . .”

        And the ellipsis at the end of a ku invites further meditation from the reader. Then there’s the list haiku:

        beneath a tree
        clear soup, pickled fish
        and cherry blossoms too
        Basho Genroku 3 1690
        tr Hiruo Shirane

        ….so while I write many verses of any length without punctuation other than white space and linebreaks, I do think punctuation marks can have a role in ELH on occasion.

  7. I’m not convinced that “visible punctuation” is required within haiku in English, unlike many Japanese hokku and haiku that use Kireji ( 切れ字, literally “cutting word” ).

    I still remember, and shiver at the memory, when an organiser of an arts organisation read out one of my haibun, ignoring the basic principles of punctuation; The title as a separate thing to be read from the prose, and all clearly defined periods/fullstop/endstops in the sentence constructions were also not taken in consideration during the reading.

    Even though haibun might appear alien in its set up, surely a title which had two blank lines before the first prose section kicks in, would have a recognised slight pause, at least? But no.

    And so I feel unless someone has a feel for creative prose, and poetry, that even clear and numerous applied punctuation will be lost to them, who might only recognise basic non-fiction prose, such as instructions.

    It might be that for some people we should issue instructions, be it haibun, or just one haiku.

    I’m reminded of some old telegrams which used STOP in uppercase to show when one sentence stopped and a new one began. I could use this system for a haiku, clearly spelling out the punctuation, almost Japanese-style.

    e.g.

    a double rainbow

    over the last polar bear STOP
    whisky on the rocks

    or

    a double rainbow

    over the last polar bear COMMA
    whisky on the rocks

    or

    a double rainbow

    over the last polar bear
ELLIPSIS
    whisky on the rocks

    .

    With Kireji, of course the punctuation is read out, and is also part of the 5-7-5 “on” [sound unit] count.

    .
    The published version:

    .
    a double rainbow

    over the last polar bear
    whisky on the rocks

    Alan Summers
    Australian Haiku Society Winter Solstice Haiku String 2022

    .

    Of course visually I do enjoy the old style haiku of the 1990s that sometimes employed commas in the middle of the second line. Though I’m not sure of over-punctuated, heavy punctuations micropoetry.

    .

    Just for fun, a punctuated haiku (quatrain):

    .

    The night, all forgotten:
    All different kinds
    of blue;
    stars lose their names.

    Alan Summers

    .

    or an unpunctuated tercet:

    .
    forgotten night
    the sky still blue
    with no stars

    Alan Summers

    .
    Although I did enjoy the July 1st example by English poet Tim Gardiner:

    .

    forgive me, peregrine, the summit is still a lonely place

    —Tim Gardiner

    .

      1. And in peak condition!

        If it was written earlier than 2022, do consider nominating some of your haiku to The Haiku Reader! 🙂

        warm regards,
        Alan

  8. Going to use italics in the last line so I’ll note it with an

    house fire
    she gathers her pages for
    Beams of the Moon

  9. Dear Lynne Jambor,
    Thanking you for this:
    Very nice and informative, going through this article by
    —Patricia McGuire (https://poetrypea.com/)
    unique in its content.
    here is my humble posting.

    punctuation
    ***
    full flooded village,
    innocent in grips of fear
    stretch of bodies .

      1. Loved all the comments on punctuation and i always love to have them for my poems. Somehow, it lifts up the poem and gives it an identity. Thanks poets for your comments.

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