Punctuation

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Wendy Seddon
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Location: Medowie NSW

Punctuation

Post by Wendy Seddon » Wed Sep 21, 2016 10:54 am

Hi folks,

I have entered some comps recently but keep falling down on punctuation!!

I have always been good at punctuation so am wondering are there any tips?

Do sentence structures work the same in poetry?

It really can be the difference in placing in a comp or not.

HELP!
Example below at the risk of you all laughing!

My 1942

The countryside for miles around beseeches drenching rain
for all is dry and blistered on the former fertile plain.
The creek is parched and all along its cracked and crusty bed
the bones of beasts are stripped of flesh where scavengers have fed.
The hardened earth refused to birth the harvest that was due,
we wring our hands despondently not knowing what to do.

Frustration and discouragement imbues the stifling air
both unbeliever and devout pursue a common prayer
that any God who’s listening would hear our earnest cry
and open up the heavens…PLEASE!...for all the tanks are dry.
A dormant devastation waiting such a scene to strike,
the nightmare that is fire, razing bush and town alike.

We’ve slaughtered half our flock of sheep, we’ll keep the ones we’re able
not slaughtered for their priceless wool but mutton for the table.
Some small tough vegies from the patch of earth beside the shed
I barter with the neighbours for some eggs and cheese and bread.
The Willy-willy swirls about and dust storms fill the skies
with fine red dust that infiltrates our mouth and nose and eyes.

Not one of us remembers when this awful time began
nor anyone foresee an end to nature’s brutal plan.
Forever in the middle of this agonizing tale,
to hope beyond tomorrow is to hope to no avail.
We’ll triumph over nature’s whims (our forefathers survived),
but nature’s wrath can never match what mankind has contrived.

Our sons are soldiers yet again, we mothers stand aghast
another war consumes the world, too soon upon the last.
The day that Mr Curtin wrote a letter to us all,
he said we took up cheerfully the Empire’s urgent call.
I see no cheer in neighbour’s eyes in fact it’s plain to see
mechanically we trudge on through the farce of normalcy.

I’m mother and I’m father while my menfolk face their death,
no time for lamentation, I’ve not time to draw a breath,
and if I did I’d risk that breath would fracture into sobs -
no help when fixing tractors or with sundry other jobs.
Three coupons for a pair of boots, a pair of gloves for two,
the night time sees me toiling still, I mend and I make do.

We may not see our sons again there’s some will not come back,
they fight in the Pacific and the fierce Kokoda track.
This year of nineteen forty two brought terror to our door,
attacks to North and East and West personified the war.
No gallant jaunt, no skirmish, nor affair across the foam,
when Aussies died on Aussie soil it brought the horror home,

This lonely and despairing life no woman ever chose,
I bond with unanimity the mothers of our foes.
They feel the heartache that I feel, they also cry at night,
we hold ourselves together and we hold our children tight.
So, steadfastly we carry on, we staunchly lift our chins
and flock to church on Sundays to confess our petty sins.

Now Christmas is upon us - it’s goodwill and festive fare,
it’s peace on earth and giving thanks, but really I don’t care.
Though for the kids the tree is up the gifts are wrapped but few,
some bonus ration coupons and a goose is cooking too.
Just maybe when the New Year dawns our lives will turn about,
an end to war and making do, an end to endless drought.
"All appears to change when we change." - Henri-Frederic Amiel

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David Campbell
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Re: Punctuation

Post by David Campbell » Wed Sep 21, 2016 1:10 pm

Hi Wendy

This is a fine poem and certainly no cause for laughing! The only possible punctuation problems I can see relate to the way in which you link lines together, because that’s where you need to give as much help as you can to the reader. For example, I’d put a comma after “rain” in the first line because you need a slight pause before “for”. But, more importantly, after “due” in the fifth line you need something stronger than a comma because you’re actually dealing with two sentences. A full stop would work, but a semi-colon would be better as the sentences are linked. You could have had “and we ring…” but that upsets the metre. (You could also have a comma after “despondently”.)

There’s a similar situation at the beginning of the second stanza where you again have two sentences, so there needs to be something after “air”. Not a comma, but a full stop or a semi-colon. The full stop might be better here, because the second line runs directly into the third line and then the fourth line.

There are other places in the poem where you’ve left out linking words like “and” in order to maintain the metre, but not provided appropriate punctuation to indicate pauses, so this could be why judges are marking you down. A poem needs to ‘flow’, without the judge having to stop and think “How am I meant to read that?”

Hope this helps

Cheers
David

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Shelley
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Re: Punctuation

Post by Shelley » Wed Sep 21, 2016 5:23 pm

Hi Wendy

David is right - this poem's sentiments and content are excellent. Why would we laugh? I particularly like Verses 1 and 4 - they are pearlers!!!

I agree with the suggestions David has made - and I guess it is just a matter of trying to see your poem through the eyes of someone (in this case the judge) who is reading it for the first time, with no idea of what comes next. That is not always easy. I usually find if I put a newly-written poem away for a month or so, then re-read it with fresh eyes, I notice little anomalies I didn't see there before.

Like some other aspects of judging, the use of punctuation can be quite subjective - I've had "poor punctuation" on one judge's feedback - only to win a prize with the same poem (unaltered) elsewhere.

I really feel that when a judge gives a low mark or adverse comments about a particular aspect of a poem, it should be accompanied by examples in the comments the judge makes. The explanation doesn't have to be "War and Peace" - but just a brief comment pointing to the instances in the poem that led to the low mark - even asterisks back to the lines in question. Otherwise it's very difficult for the writer to know where the errors lie.

Could I just add one thing to David's comments? I know your question was about punctuation - which is what David addressed. This is something else - do you mind? It may not be an issue with every judge - but there is one instance in the poem where you have used a feminine ending (with the rhyme on the second-last syllable) - whereas all the others are masculine (with the rhyme on the last syllable).
We’ve slaughtered half our flock of sheep, we’ll keep the ones we’re able
not slaughtered for their priceless wool but mutton for the table.
This adds an extra syllable at the end of the line, which does affect the rhythm. Apart from these two lines, the poem's rhyming couplet style contains 14 syllables per line - which you have maintained very consistently throughout. But these two lines have 15 syllables (by the addition of the extra syllable after the final rhyme - ABle and TABle.

Perhaps (just as a suggestion) you could say something like:

We've slaughtered half our flock of sheep; we've kept the ones we need -
not valued for their priceless wool - just mutton for a feed.

Cheers :D
Shelley
Shelley Hansen
Lady of Lines
http://www.shelleyhansen.com

"Look fer yer profits in the 'earts o' friends,
fer 'atin' never paid no dividends."
(CJ Dennis "The Mooch o' Life")

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Wendy Seddon
Posts: 437
Joined: Sun Oct 31, 2010 5:20 pm
Location: Medowie NSW

Re: Punctuation

Post by Wendy Seddon » Wed Sep 21, 2016 9:28 pm

Thank you so much David and Shelley, exactly what I need.
I don't have a writing group nearby to bounce things off.


That'a great alternative Shelley - I knew what I wanted to say and I knew the stresses were wrong
but I couldn't think of how to fix it....thank you.

I will take all you have both said on board....the judges critiques were also helpful.
Thanks again.
"All appears to change when we change." - Henri-Frederic Amiel

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