Monday, 27 July 2020

Poetry Monday: Leaves . . . and Funnies (Another Random Edition)

It's Poetry Monday again - what's with the weeks going so fast, anyhow? - and this week's topic is ..... LEAVES.

Join Diane, MotherOwl, Mimi, contributors in the comments, and me, as we try our hand at this topic. You can leave your poem in the comments, or post on your own blog. If you do the latter, please comment so we can find you and your poem. Use the topic, or choose another. Write your own poem, or share one you like from another author.

The idea is to enjoy ourselves and work our brains a little.


At first, I wasn't sure what approach to take with "leaves". The phrase that kept running through my head was "eats(,) shoots and leaves", made widely popular by this book - based on this joke - as an example of how punctuation changes the meaning of a sentence. With the comma in there, the sentence describes what a panda eats; without the comma, it describes what a hungry, armed panda does just before he/she goes somewhere else.

I like correct punctuation, as I know many of you do also. I even use it some of the time! Admittedly, I have slacked off in my blog, but, still, I appreciate good punctuation when I see it, and I am being super careful to use it today, while it's uppermost in my (and your) mind. (Normal service will probably resume on the next post, unfortunately.)

But reading the newspaper or online news can make me cry almost every day with the lack of appropriate punctuation, especially commas. Using too few commas makes those long sentences - of which news writers seem so fond - harder to follow, sometimes requiring several readings to really grasp what it is they are trying to say.

Sometimes it cannot be grasped at all, as one interpretation is as likely as another, even when they are polar opposites.

Using too many, commas, is just, as bad, as you can see, here in this, sentence.

I blame lack of proper use of punctuation on lack of proper instruction at every grade level in school.* Some kids learn proper punctuation more easily than others, especially keen book readers who absorb proper usage subconsciously along with the story line. Other kids find it harder: kids who aren't interested readers, those with dyslexia or another reading disability, or those whose home lives do not include or place importance on written skills. But kids have much less chance to learn anything if it is not given a place in the school curriculum, simply because they spend so many of their waking hours in school. (Well, at least they did, before the pandemic.)

Punctuation no longer seems to have much of a place in either school or university curriculums, if even journalism students, who intend to write for a living, are not taught the basics.

*All opinions my own. My kids have been out of school for many years and I no longer have the advantage of direct observation of the curriculum. Here's another opinion: I blame lack of proper use of punctuation on laziness. I'm guilty of that one myself.


Well, that took an unexpected turn. I didn't expect to end up passionately defending punctuation, particularly while admitting at the exact same time to being careless with it myself, when the topic was something else entirely.

It's a good thing I don't drive a bus. Passengers would get on expecting to go to Halifax, and end up in Sydney. Or vice versa.

A map to help you understand that last bit:

Halifax and Sydney are our two largest urban areas, but they aren't in the same neighbourhood. Not even close.

As an aside, for those eagle-eyed readers who note that "Sydney" is also a very large city in Australia, why, yes - incredibly - people have gotten the two confused! Including travel agents. There have been multiple news stories here about folks thinking they are going to one Sydney and ending up in the other one, 17,029 km away . The only thing the two places have in common is that they are on the ocean. Usually, of course, folks want to end up in Sydney, Australia. But, instead, they end up here in Nova Scotia. And that's why we read about it in our newspapers. Because it's not news in Australia. Because the travellers don't end up there, wishing they were here . . . oh, never mind.

Again, I'm straying off the topic.

So, here's my poem. As sometimes happens, I seem to have veered off the beaten path and into the ditch. I'm not pome-ing about leaves after all, but commas.


Small But Mighty

The comma's a tiny and wonderful thing;
A "dot with a tail" that can make our prose sing.
When not used enough, it can lead to confusion;
When used overmuch, it may signal effusion.

I'm keen on the comma, but too short on time
To write about comma rules in perfect rhyme.
So if it's a quick comma lesson you need,
Just click on the link here to get up to speed :)


And now . . . what you've all secretly (or not so secretly) been waiting for . . . today's funnies.


Wishing you a week perfectly punctuated with smiles :)

Next week's topic will be ......... MASKS.

Good luck!


Bonnie said...

Your poem is great! I am amazed at the punctuation, grammer and spelling of professional writers with many news companies. Of course, I should not say anything because the older I get the worse mine gets!

dinthebeast said...

My bag of commas is apparently bottomless.
Let's see...

They spring in the spring
They fall in the fall
And in the winter
They're not there at all

Tea ones can be read
Or they can be brewed
The scent they give off
Can alter the mood

When dry on the ground
They easily burn
The forests in Autumn
Look nice when they turn

Each child and dog
For miles and miles
Will want to jump in
When they're raked into piles

-Doug in Sugar Pine

Elephant's Child said...

Thank you. For the funnies of course (and many could be named trueys) and for the reminder that commas are IMPORTANT. Very, very important.

River said...

I really love all the funnies :)

Charlotte (MotherOwl) said...

Yes. I don't know the comma rules in English very well, I was never tught in school and has been too lazy to look them up since. But in Danish I'm a perfect grammar, spelling and punctuation cop. I bet you'd adore Hyperbole and a Half's take on spelling and grammar.

Red said...

Nice rant on the comma. You could expand this to grammar in general. Being retired teacher, I saw the teaching of grammar almost completely disappear through the 90's. Good punctuation and grammar lead to a clearer message. Today the message is somewhat of a guessing game.

Steve Reed said...

When I worked in newspapers, if any of our articles made it past three ranks of editors and into the paper with incorrect punctuation, there were always readers who would mail them back to us marked with a red pen and usually indignant exclamations. Nowadays newspapers have fewer editors so I suspect errors are more frequent! (Then again, sometimes the editors inserted the errors, but never mind...)

Steve Reed said...

Oh, and in England, a comma is a type of butterfly!

SpikesBestMate said...

I like your poem, Jenny; I'm a punctuation freak, too, so I appreciate your sentiments. I have also hijacked the poem theme a little, though it does still relate slightly to leaves. Here it is:


He sails through the air, all his paws outspread
Will he clear the roof of the garden shed?
No. A heap of leaves piled up high
Is what makes Buster want to fly.

The master has been out since dawn
Raking from his cherished lawn
Every scrap of leafy litter
The heap is big, and getting bigger.

Buster’s barks of expectation
Give way to whines of desperation
He thumps his tail, he’s more than ready
His master stays him: “Steady …. Steady ….”
But Buster’s off! He can wait no longer -
The lure of leafy play’s much stronger.

The scent, the crunch, the bounce, the swirl -
As Buster leaps, leaves fly and twirl.
In all directions autumn colours
Explode and fall on one another.

Then suddenly - he is no more!
Lost from view: no tail, no paw
Where has he gone? We look around
But of Buster there’s no sight, nor sound.
We hunt and call, voices a-quiver
Dear old Buster. Will we ever
See him again? We start to doubt ....

(From the leafy pile two eyes peep out.)

All’s quiet in the house; it’s just before dawn
And Buster is padding across the lawn.
He lies down quietly ‘neath the trees
And dreams of pouncing on autumn leaves.

Sweet dreams, Buster.

jenny_o said...

Me, too, Bonnie :)

jenny_o said...

For such an insignificant mark, they do a big job, don't they?

I like the word "trueys"!

jenny_o said...

You do very well in English, Charlotte. I expect the rules may be similar.

That's a wonderful post from Hyperbole and a Half on the Alot!! I love it :)

jenny_o said...

Yes, it really is a guessing game at times. Too many times :)

jenny_o said...

Fewer editors, and fewer actual journalists, too, I think. I still find comma errors most often in online writeups, but our provincial newspaper makes many mistakes of the homonym variety. I think they are using spell check, which - as you know - does not pick those up. It drives me around the bend :)

jenny_o said...

Yes, I seem to remember that from your blog!

Well, we can't use THAT kind of comma to make writing clearer :)

jenny_o said...

Aww ... I love this poem, SBM! Wonderful!! Thanks so much for sharing it :)

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

I over-comma and overthink my over-commas.

The funnies were wonderful today (like they usually are), but I can really relate to the white, fluffy, screeching cat.

Marie Smith said...

The gorgeous glow this time of year
Comes from leaves and greenery here.
Before you know it though you’ll see
Nothing left on most every tree.

Diane Stringam Tolley said...

Doug? Perfect!

Diane Stringam Tolley said...

Yay, Buster! Knowing what you want and going for it! Well done!

Diane Stringam Tolley said...

Gahhh! I commented, then went to read the other poems and can't remember if I published my comment. Yes, it's one of those days...
Anyway, if I did, please ignore this one. If not, this is what I said...(Or something similar):
I have a real love-hate relationship with commas.
I think this poem (and accompanying article) is a must-read for all literary hopefuls!
Let's eat Grampa! Let's eat, Grampa! (Commas save lives!)

jenny_o said...

I was sure I replied to this earlier, Doug, but the evidence says otherwise :)

You have covered so much about leaves that I feel too! Thank you for contributing again today.

jenny_o said...

Good! I'm glad you enjoyed them :)

jenny_o said...

Oh, that cat! Isn't that a hoot! Me, too :D

I'm much more relaxed about punctuation, etc. on blogs than in newspapers and books. Including my own blog - oops :)

jenny_o said...

I know - the weeks are speeding by, aren't they? It's nearly August. How did that happen?

Thanks for sharing again, Marie.

jenny_o said...

LOL! Another great example! As I freely admit, I am more lax on my blog than in formal writing. And more relaxed with other blogs. I look for what people are trying to say, not how they're saying it. It's in professional writing that bad punctuation makes me cringe!

SpikesBestMate said...

Nice one, Doug. It looks like you and I are on the same page with this prompt.

SpikesBestMate said...

I feel happy with my use of commas in standard prose text - it's their use, or lack of, in poetry that I find troublesome. When I was at school we were taught to put a comma or full stop at the end of every line. Poetry has become much more free-form since those days and now I find I spend a lot of time taking commas out! The use of the dash - has become more popular lately. It just shows how punctuation, along with language in general, changes over generations.

SpikesBestMate said...

I'm getting to like Buster. I have a feeling you will be seeing more of him in the future.

Andrew said...

Short and sweet. I probably overuse commas. Cat Logic is my winner. I'd like to see a large mural of a kangaroo painted at the Sydney NS airport. That would do some heads in.

Joanne Noragon said...

It's a treat to look at so many cats, and see so many of my own in color, markings, tricks.

messymimi said...

Excellent poem! Yes, i try to use correct punctuation, although i do not always succeed.

Loved the funnies, and now i have to try to write another mask poem, i think i have an idea.

jenny_o said...

That's true, isn't it? My thinking is that whatever changes are made, they should lead to clearer communication. That's my only request! lol

jenny_o said...

It sure would, Andrew - I'm liking the idea, though :)

jenny_o said...

Seems there's a lot of overlap among feline markings and traits ;)

jenny_o said...

There's a lot to be said about masks at the moment :)

Mr. Shife said...

I guess I have really misunderstood cats all these years as I had no idea they were scientists. The panda book is great and I agree that punctuation is dying along with spelling. It makes the old journalism major in me sad.

Abbie Taylor said...

You write like I think. Sometimes, when my mind is focused on one topic, I'm reminded of something else, which makes me think of something else. Eventually, I'm wondering what got me into this tangent. Thank you for sharing.

Diane Henders said...

I'm a passionate defender of the Oxford comma, and I loved your poem! The kittehs made me LOL, too - especially the cat curled up in the dustpan. Cats... *facepalm*

37paddington said...

Commas matter but I was taught that when in doubt, do without. I think you’re so right that we learn proper punctuation subconsciously from reading, and enrich our vocabulary and ways of expressing ourselves too.

jenny_o said...

I didn't realize you studied journalism, Mr. S. I'll have to watch my p's and q's around you now :)

And, don't feel bad about the cat scientist thing. You're a dog guy. You're excused :)

jenny_o said...

Hi Abbie - welcome and thanks for leaving a comment! I have an awful monkey mind. Sometimes I rein it in; other times it carries me off in a handcart :)

I enjoyed reading your posts so far. I'm going backwards with them!

jenny_o said...

Indeed :D "The mystery of the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements" - I wish I knew why they do it.

jenny_o said...

Good readers have an easier time of it in school because all or most of the other subjects are presented in print. Which is a shame, because not all kids find reading easy, but they have other talents that should be nurtured right from the time they're little.

baili said...

This is really a pleasant post dear Jenny dealt amazingly by you as always

Each time you catch the topic through unusual way but treat it astonishingly :)
I cannot say how bad I am with comms as English is not my first language. Yet I am lucky that I remember some basics from school and Apple it once in a while yes I am also one who try to save seconds by avoiding commas .I agree that most of people don't care for basics, basics not just related to grammar but any other kind of basics that prove us proper human.
I enjoyed your poem, you nailed it well:)
Thank you for leaving sweet words and thank you sooo much for being concerned. I couldn't stop thinking about you or all other blogger friends inspite of all crazy bussiness.on the return of from village I got busy in shopping needed to settle down in guest house. I am trying to reconnect when I have time to do is always deep joy to hear from you you :)

jenny_o said...

Thank you for such a supportive comment again today, baili - I hope you have gotten settled in and are enjoying the cooler temperatures in your village! Hugs to you too, my friend :)