Monday 6 March 2017

BOGO: Poetry Monday, And Giving Up A Writing Crutch

I already had my post underway for today when I "remembered" it's Poetry Monday ... and by "remembered" I mean that Diane, over at On the Alberta/Montana Border, reminded me and her other readers ...

Poetry Monday was conjured up by Diane, who was then joined by Delores (at Mumblings). If you go to either of their blogs, you will find other people who have joined in as well.

So today: BOGO - buy one post, get one free (and don't think you aren't "buying" because you're spending precious time to read this stuff, so it's anything but free ...)


I think many people hear the word "poem" and either roll their eyes or run screaming for the hills.

But there are so many kinds of poems; it's just a matter of finding some that fit the reader's likes and preferences.

Personally I enjoy a wide variety of poetry - everything from sonnets to limericks to free verse to cat haiku. And I've written many kinds, although I'll admit some of them were for a project in high school. But occasionally since then, too. Sometimes a few lines will pop into my head and - just like having a mouse in the house - I can't rest until it's out of there.

What is cat haiku? If you haven't run into this concept before, here's an example:

Grace personified.
I leap into the window.
I meant to do that.

(Like me, you may have learned in school that a haiku is a Japanese form of poetry consisting of three lines, with a certain number of syllables in each line - five, then seven, then five. Actual REAL haiku counts Japanese characters, not syllables, but in English we have to use syllables instead.)

On this Poetry Monday I feel like writing cat haiku, so here goes. This one is inspired by our finicky male cat, who maintains his svelte figure by never eating, except sometimes when we least expect it.

Dinner time so soon?
That bowl of food revolts me.
Take it away, slave.

What is this I see -
Yesterday's forgotten bowl?
Leave it! I must eat.

*          *          *

And now the other half of the "buy one, get one free" post.

And this one really hurts me. Don't be alarmed. It only hurts in the literary way.

I am about to embark on an experiment. It involves giving up something very dear to me. Something I use every day, in every way, to express my feelings of joy! excitement!! disbelief!!! rage!!!!

Yes, it's the exclamation mark, also known as the exclamation point. And according to every grammar site I've checked, people are using too many of them. I know this particular person is.

As an aside, Wikipedia says that the exclamation mark is thought to have derived from the Latin exclamation for joy (oi) and that the modern representation started in the Middle Ages, when medieval copyists wrote it at the end of their sentences to indicate joy. (If I were a medieval copyist I'm pretty sure I'd be using it at the end of my painstakingly handwritten sentences, too.) And then it evolved into its present day form over time.

I love that punctuation mark. Until emoticons came into widespread use, it was my only means of expressing emotion in the written word. When I look at the letters I wrote to my parents from university (which my mother kindly saved for me, I know not why) I am embarrassed - embarrassed, I tell you - by the number of them I used.

I admire writers who can get across their joy, excitement, disbelief and rage without the use of flagrant punctuation. I want to become one of them.

So I'm giving up exclamation marks for a whole week. In my posts, in my comments, in my replies to comments here.  It's going to be a rough week, but I did want to warn you. Nothing has happened to me - I'm not sad, I'm not depressed, I'm not bored with life. None of those. I'm trying to progress as a writer, and I'm hoping that one week will turn into longer.

I have to admit I am not optimistic about this experiment. But I'm going to give it a try.

Who knows? If this is successful, maybe I'll try living without my next-most-favourite crutch, the smiley face :)

"I narrow my eyes at your lack of optimism, Slave. Signed, Finicky Male Cat"

Did you reflexively go back and count the number of exclamation marks today? I'm proud to say I edited out five, and left in eleven, but I think all eleven are used correctly!

Make that twelve, now ...


Elephant's Child said...

LOVE your cat haiku. And am more than familiar with the behaviour.
Exclamation points aren't my downfall. Ellipses. And incorrect spelling (as in I am sooooo over this...)

The Happy Whisk said...

I want to be a smartypants and say that I wish you luck! But that would mean that I'm shouting luck. Or wait, how about, I wish you LUCK!!!!

Now I'm really overdoing it.


LL Cool Joe said...

Yes I tend to run a mile when someone mentions poetry, but then I tell myself that Rap is just poetry to music, so I should be a little less closed minded about it, as I'm a big fan of Rap.

Good luck with ditching the exclamation mark!!

Chicken said...

Jenny, as your friend, I'm compelled to tell you...Wikipedia is mostly Fake News! Sad! On the other hand, if you give up exclamation points, you'll lose at least 5 pounds in the first week. I read that somewhere.
Don't tell me what to
Do, I'm happy the way I
Am, So there! she yelled
I think I'm missing the point, somehow.

only slightly confused said...

I love the car haiku, absolutely adore the car and am improbably proud of you for giving up your favourite writers play toy the exclamation mark. If I had to give up my favourite (the infamous ....) I don't know what I would do for emphasis.

Diane Stringam Tolley said...

Here is where I admit I've never tried Haiku. I absolutely love it, though. My son in law is an expert, writes whole letters to people in haiku verses. I'm gonna give it a try. Soon.
And kudos for giving up the '!!!' I know I use too many. Especially in my comments. But then you have to see me when I talk. There is no other punctuation that quite captures the waving arms accompanying all my conversations. Sigh.

Red said...

I'm afraid your campaign against the poor old exclamation mark may drive it to extinction. It's my favorite piece of punctuation. I may use it because of my weakness in writing clearly. I've been to the haiku thing many times. there are some past posts here with haiku.

Steve Reed said...

At least you don't use multiple exclamation marks at the end of a single sentence!!!!!!

jenny_o said...

I've used more than my share of ellipses and creative spelling, too! Some other poor soul is doing without because of our greed, EC :)
(I wanted so badly to use an exclamation mark there)

jenny_o said...

Egad, this is going to be a hard week ... my fingers are itching to hit that special key ... I foresee my use of ... and :) skyrocketing...

jenny_o said...

All songs are poetry to music, aren't they? Sure they are :) And thanks, although I can't help but think I should never have tried this, even for a week. Sigh.

jenny_o said...

I love your haiku, and actually the article on exclamation points that drove me to try this bizarre form of self-flagellation was about the Prez and HIS use of them. Hah.

jenny_o said...

The cat adores you, too.

Emphasis - this is my problem, too. My use of ... and :) have already multiplied to fill the gap.

jenny_o said...

I wavered mightily on whether to try this week of giving up my poor !!!'s. THIS IS HOW I TALK! Just like you. Gah. Sigh. *waves arms*

jenny_o said...

Well, I'd hate to be an exclamation mark murderer. I just want to tame the beast :)

jenny_o said...

Well, I HAVE!!! In the past, you understand :)

Jono said...

The cat haiku is awesome! I have ten little inspirations running around the house. Actually sleeping around the house, mostly. I'll have to try some of that.

Diane Henders said...

What?!? No exclamation marks?!? That's insane! I love my exclamation marks and I'm never giving them up! Never!!!

Okay, I'll stop now. But seriously, moderation is the key, not total abstinence. I'm not giving up my smiley-faces, either. ;-)

jenny_o said...

It's addictive, Jon. And some of the stuff online is really hilarious. The link "an example" (where I got "Grace personified" from) has the first cat haikus I ever read, a series of them that look like they were meant to be read all at once. If you write some, please share :)

jenny_o said...

I'm having even more trouble avoiding them than I expected, Diane - I have a funny feeling they'll be back in my writing - maybe worse than usual - by this time next week :)

e said...

Ah, the sex of our peculiar grammar. Exclamation points and ellipses, they breed as the seed of incomplete or excited thought...Not a Haiku, just a passing idea. Best of luck with this experiment!

jenny_o said...

Thanks, e. And, I've never thought of punctuation marks in quite that way. Now, how would you describe emoticons? :)

e said...

Rarely used.

dinthebeast said...

I mostly use exclamation marks when quoting excited speech. Like just now on Susie Madrak's blog when I was quoting Molly Ivins about how she dealt with people who were not interested in politics: "You're being screwed again!" Having heard her say it, there's no way I can write it out without the exclamation mark.

Never mind the holes
That my claws make in your skin
I'm adorable.

I wrote song lyrics for years and years, and one day I was reading my journal and realized that most of them would never see the music I hoped to build around them, because I don't really write songs that way. They're poems, damn it. I still like some of them anyway.
Here's one of my favorite poems. It's by Taylor Mali. All of his stuff is good if this one makes you curious:

-Doug in Oakland

jenny_o said...

I applaud and admire you for that. But, crikey, I find it hard to do.

jenny_o said...

That is powerful, Doug. Thanks for pointing it out. I like your haiku as well - well done. Clearly about your own little feline friend :)

I hope if/when you start a blog you will let me know. I'm looking forward to it. You always have an interesting thought or link to share. Should be a piece of cake for you! That "!" was warranted by my need for emphasis :)

baili said...

it is pleasure to know that you write poetry dear friend!
i liked the details about poetry in your post.
in our land we too have a kind of poetry which is consist of three lines .

what can i say about you second post about exclamation marks dear as i am completely stranger to it but know very little and try to follow it according to my little knowledge.

Martha said...

I do wish you luck because there will be temptation everywhere! How will you stand it?!

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Used intelligently, I think that exclamation marks are a useful aid to writing. They press home a point and indicate to the reader certain raised levels of excitement, disbelief, surprise or joy. Sometimes the intended meaning may be lost without the addition of the exclamation mark. Here's an example:-
I hope to find happiness one day. ( a simple statement of fact with no extra connotations)
I hope to find happiness one day! (suggests exasperation that the quest to find it has been rather tortuous and futile) Placing a comma after "happiness" would add to the sense of a frustrated journey.

So I am not necessarily with the aloof pedants who habitually scorn the exclamation mark. Used judiciously, the exclamation mark can be very useful in clarifying meaning!

jenny_o said...

Thank you, baili. I would like to read some of your land's three-line poetry. Do you write?

jenny_o said...

I'm already being forced to think about my usage, my alternatives, why I want to cut back and my style. So I guess there is an upside. On the downside, I'm *not* standing it very well :)

jenny_o said...

The key word here is "judiciously", YP. I'm probably (make that definitely) going back to using it after the week is up. I've already decided that, after just one day. In the meantime, giving it up has made me think about my purpose in writing as well as my writing itself. Not a bad thing.

The Happy Whisk said...

Skyrocking or SKYROCKETING!!!!

The Happy Whisk said...

Skyrocketing. I think I spelled it wrong, either way, interested to read of your ! journey more.

jenny_o said...

hee hee Ivy - the journey is not going well. I have cheated twice on other sites' comments and am now over-compensating with other kinds of frowned-upon punctuation. But it's making me think.

John M said...

My wife likes to write haiku.

jenny_o said...

It's not as overwhelming to consider writing haiku as it is some longer kinds of poems. And it doesn't need to rhyme, another plus :)