Dangling Modifiers, Gangling Grammar…my guest blog post

I am a guest blogger on Richard Bylina's blog site: http://rickbylina.blogspot.com/ Having trouble with sentences that say one thing but mean another? Got issues with misplaced modifiers or dangling participles in your grammar? I talk about gangling grammar (aka Dangling Modifiers) in this guest blog today. Hope you like it. ~Ignatius

Using Punctuation Stylistically in Prose Poems

It’s odd, but of late I have noticed a convenient departure from my usual writing technique when I sit down to write prose poems, a form that brings prose and poetry together in a structure more or less paragraph-like in nature, but with a distinct expressiveness that is generally unseen in regular prose and other forms of writing. Prose poems look at life closely, with immediacy and vulnerability, as if meaning to pass life's experiences through the lens of a microscope while expressing these observations through the poet's acknowledgment and disclosure. The poet may write about anything that becomes relevant and imperative to his or her condition, often in the present, but the style is a clear departure from the cadenced, line-by-line poetic form. As far back as the mid 1800s, the French essayist, critic, and poet Charles Baudelaire depended on his poetic prose style to write about the modern, fleeting world around him. In his prose poem At One O'Clock In The Morning, Baudelaire writes this: "At last, then, I am allowed to refresh myself in a bath of darkness! First of all, a double turn of the lock...Horrible life! Horrible town! Let us recapitulate the day...." (Excerpt taken from www.poemhunter.com/poem/at-one-o-clock-in-the-morning/) He spared no emotion, no safety in his method to articulate his own observations of industrializing France and the effect life had on him then. And he somehow managed to influence other poets and writers of his time, even those that followed him into the future. These days, poets like Mary Oliver and Robert Bly for instance are well known for their prose poems and for their talent to distill the universe around them through their eyes and pens, helping us leave the earth or move through it without effort and with grace. "All narrative is metaphor," Oliver says in her prose poem No. 2. from Winter Hours. And Bly's confession is more telling than anything I could conjure up, when he writes "We could say that the complicated soul from which images and language flows is as much nature as the rice grain or the pine cone." (From his collection What Have I Ever Lost By Dying?) While I love prose poems and how they appeal to my writer's mind, the point I want to make is my use of punctuation in this medium. When I draft a prose poem, my use of commas, periods, semicolons, and other marks suddenly stand out like sun spots or a fallen leaf on fresh earth; these marks make a difference in what I am trying to say. They can help me or simply get in the way. If I use them too much, they must be right and at the right places in the poem. I find that I use more periods in my poetic prose, and more often, whereas I would rely on longer sentences and convenient punctuation to string sentences together in my everyday writing. My prose poems require that urgency or pause which periods offer, and even a sort of slowing down to allow the fingers of my being to "take up" what it is I notice before me, to lift that object or experience and study it, and then attempt to describe it with the same truth and beauty from which it came. Robert Bly wants to write "...so that the being [the thing or experience observed] does not dissolve into human images...." Commas in a series can make thoughts and words run in a sentence, and sometimes it isn't what I truly want in a prose poem. The exclamation point is helpful, too, to magnify a feeling. So too for the long dash, which is great for emphasis in such a short work, which a prose poem often is. And yet, I take particular pleasure in moving a prose poem through fantasy. Maybe I'm wrong to do that, but the prose poem itself refuses to follow its own pattern. Because in the end, I too must feel the lift from gravity in what I write. ~Ignatius