Thursday, September 14, 2006
Poems and commas
You’ve probably heard about the new children’s book by Lynne Truss (based on her adult book by the same name), Eats, Shoots & Leaves (Putnam 2006). It’s a clever picture book treatment of the difference a comma makes in everyday written language. Two pictures are juxtaposed in each double-page spread, one featuring an illustration of the sentence’s meaning WITH the comma and one WITHOUT. The cartoon drawings are simple, engaging, and usually humorous.
As soon as I saw this book, I was reminded of Kalli Dakos’ poem, “Call the Periods/Call the Commas” from If Your Not Here, Please Raise Your Hand; Poems About School (Simon & Schuster, 1990). It’s a gem for any English lesson and may lead to an interesting discussion of the place of punctuation in poetry.
Call the Periods
Call the Commas
By Kalli Dakos
Call the doctors Call the nurses Give me a breath of
air I’ve been reading all your stories but the periods
aren’t there Call the policemen Call the traffic guards
Give me a STOP sign quick Your sentences are running
when they need a walking stick Call the commas Call
the question marks Give me a single clue Tell me
where to breathe with a punctuation mark or two
Of course you have to read it aloud—and all in one breath! ☺