Poetic Grammar: Part V
The Debate Concluded
For centuries, the literary rules of proper grammar and the artistic concepts of poetry have been at odds. They will probably remain so for centuries to come. The question of whether or not the rules of proper grammar should apply to poetry is definitely an intriguing debate. Each side makes compelling arguments. Without any official resolution, each poet has to conclude the debate for themselves.
Poetry is really quite unique. It was originally a lyrical form of spoken communication before eventually evolving into a form of written communication. It is also an intricate and exquisitely beautiful form of art. Poetry is meant to express the deepest emotions, comment on the human condition, and paint a vivid mental picture. That’s why it is so interesting that poetry has such a rebellious nature which makes it not as conducive to proper grammar as are other forms of communication, both written and spoken.
The English language is quite unique as well. It has been described as being the most expressive, complex, and fascinating language spoken by mankind. In many respects, English is also the most promotive of artistic writing such as poetry, song writing (which is basically poetry), and story writing. This is due to its compromising nature. Literary rules, such as proper grammar, are meant to encourage effective intelligent communication in both the spoken and written word. However, if one has a firm command of the English language, they can bend it to their will.
It could be that the reason poetry is rebellious isn’t merely because the poet’s soul tends to be rebellious. Maybe it’s also because the English language makes rebellion possible. A poet doesn’t have to sacrifice creativity in order to write a grammatically correct poem. Although, focusing on being grammatically correct may hinder creativity for some poets. Also, a poem can be grammatically incorrect without sacrificing intelligence and eloquence. Therefore, it is my belief, that this question of proper grammar in poetry should ultimately be decided by each individual poet.
The English language has many quirks which make it easy to manipulate for artistic purposes. One misplaced, omitted or swapped punctuation mark can transform the tone and/or meaning of the entire sentence. Simply changing the order of words within a sentence can have the same effect. Changes made to a single sentence have the potential to drastically alter the entire piece of writing. Also, in most cases, the intended meaning of a sentence can still be easily ascertained even when the sentence is grammatically incorrect. These are just a few of the many examples of the compromising nature of the English language. Given these facts, it’s a little hard to believe that anyone would even entertain the idea of officially declaring poetry subject to grammatical and other literary rules.
Poetry writing is one of the most beautiful and pure forms of art. In fact, it can be argued that all writing is an art form. Drawing, painting, and writing all originated with pictograms. Most agree that art should not be restricted by rules. So, why shouldn’t the same ideology extend to poetry?
Literary rules, such as proper grammar, are certainly valuable. Every poet must have knowledge of these rules even if they choose not to implement them in their poetic writings. It is crucial not only for proficiency in other forms of writing but also for being a truly skilled poet. You must know the rules before you can decide whether or not to abide by them. There is a substantial difference between ignorance and command of the language. Either one or the other will be immediately evident in your writing. A firm command of the English language is absolutely essential whether you employ proper grammar in your poetry or not. Remember, never underestimate the intelligence of your reader.
What it comes down to is, writing eloquent poetry which accomplishes all that you want it to does not hinge upon whether or not you follow grammatical and other literary rules. Your writing should represent you and your unique poetic style. If you value proper grammar and believe it will enhance your poem, employ proper grammar. If you believe that the absence of proper grammar will enhance your poem, go ahead and break the rules. Either way, if you have a love of literature, a passion for the art of poetry writing, and appreciation for your readers you will be writing spectacular inspiring poetry.
Poetry requires integrity. In this instance, integrity means being true to yourself, Decide what you want to accomplish with your writing. Take the time to define and establish your own unique poetic style. Most importantly, write from your heart and soul. Reveal your true spirit in your writing. That is what will make you a great poet, not whether or not your poetry is grammatically correct.
Poetic Grammar, as a movement, is about artistic freedom. It’s about allowing each individual poet to use grammar in whatever way best expresses who they are as a poet and best enhances their poetry. Most of all, it’s about appreciating all styles of poetry and poets of all kinds. Write what you’re passionate about, and don’t be afraid to start your own poetic movement. Happy writing, my friends!
FUN POETRY FACT: Charles Dickens often used run-on sentences.
FUN GRAMMAR FACT: “I am.” is the shortest complete sentence in the English language.