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/)