Friday, September 14, 2018

For the Love of Punctuation

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Amazing Amy at The Poem Farm for Roundup.

Big thanks to all who have sent along octopus art and poems! Agnes and I are giddy, I tell you. Giddy! So much #octopuslove. And there's still room for me, so please, join the Octopus Month (October) celebration!
Here's the post with more information.

Today I'd like to talk about punctuation. That's because I've just read A BUNCH OF PUNCTUATION: Poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illus. by Serge Bloch (WordSong).

My relationship with punctuation in poetry goes something like this:

Who needs punctuation?

Okay, a LITTLE punctuation.

Ooh, I love that emdash!

In this new collection Lee brings us 14 poems by these fine poets/humans: Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Betsy Franco, Charles Ghigna, Joan Bransfield Graham, Michele Krueger, Julie Larios, J. Patrick Lewis, Prince Redcloud, Alice Schertle, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Allan Wolf, Jane Yolen -- and of course Lee himself.

Lee Bennett Hopkins
In fact, it's one of Lee's poems that I'd like to share today -- because I love it. It's about the comma, but it actually says as much about a period. I love when poems do that!

When I wrote to Lee to ask his permission to include the poem in this post, he offered some additional comma-y comments. Read on!

 by Lee Bennett Hopkins

A comma
lets you stop,


enjoy the weather,

unlike a period,
which puts an end

to any
or sunny day,
at once,


"Commas are very important. Misusing them can cause a lot of trouble. For example:

"I love cooking children and dogs." is not the same as "I love cooking, children, and dogs."

All hail the comma -- not the coma."
  - Lee Bennett Hopkins
You never know what Lee will come up with -- what lucky readers we are!

I myself have written about punctuation a number of times. The shortest -- and strangest -- appears in FRESH DELICIOUS, where there's a "Summer Squash as Punctuation" spread. The visual interpretation is a little different than a traditional poem:

Illustrations by Mique Moriuchi

Summer Squash as Punctuation

crookneck squash = question mark
button squash - period
zucchini squash = exclamation point
Have YOU written a punctuation poem? If so, leave your link in comments, because I'd love to read it!


  1. Such a fun post. Must find a copy of this book soon. Great comma poem, and I loved Lee's comments!

  2. I recently read this wonderful book too, Irene! Terrific & fun collection. (And, Lee - your extra "comments" - ha! As a vegetarian, I won't be cooking any children or dogs... but I do probably cook up way too many ellipses... and (!) exclamation points.)

  3. Squash as punctuation, so clever! And, yes, I like Lee's comma/period poem, no matter the weather.
    Here are some grammar fibs I wrote a while back:

  4. As a poet AND teacher of grammar to middle school students, I find Hopkin's new anthology irresistible!

  5. I love the book, and remember your "squash-marks" too, clever seeing! This poem you shared is one Ingrid read on FB, after we read the book together, she practiced reading some aloud, loving the way those marks told how to say. Thanks, Irene.

  6. Oh, I have an uneasy relationship with punctuation...I'm not good at it. And, there are folks that are passionate about it that I'm always nervous will embarrass me! Fortunately, I work with middle grade people and I've done a lot of learning right along side them. I do enjoy Lee's comma poem. It pokes fun and teaches at the same time which is wonderful!

  7. I have your "Fresh Delicious book Irene, and "Summer Squash as Punctuation" was delish! Though one has to watch out for the button squash, as they may roll away with a period or too… I'm looking forward to reading "A Bunch of Punctuation." I love all those commas in the poem–and Lee's lively comment. Thanks Irene!

  8. Such fun! No, I haven't written any poems about punctuation, but I think I might be missing out. You are a wealth of poetry invitations these weeks-from octopus to punctuation!

  9. What a fun poem by Lee! Love the personification. This is one collection I haven't gotten to yet. (Every time I blink it seems there's another one out :D) And I do so love your squash punctuation. So many of those poems from Fresh. Delicious. have a visual component—one of the many reasons I love that collection so.

  10. Those squash crack me up!!! Yeah, just having a comma for dinner. I get a giggle out of this book and so appreciate how the whimsical illustrations match the poems. Lee is something else. xx


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