Scan the poem visually first

If you see a poem
With at least one line
Ending in a long dash –
You should read that poem –
With a pause at the end
Of only the lines –
Ending with that long dash

(and pause between stanzas)

But if you see a poem
Without a long dash
Then you should read it
To pause at the end
Of every line

(and pause for commas, of course)


After 30 years of writing 1870 poems, I have finally found a punctuating syntax that’s right for me on May 31, 2021.

I had just never worked through it seriously, having blindly adopted Emily Dickinson’s dashing punctuation for the end of all lines with pause. The problem was if a poem required a pause at the end of every line, then the ending long dash was unnecessary. But I had never thought about that, ending those lines with the long dash as well, leaving the poem looking a bit ragged. However, today, I finally gave it some serious thought as to how to resolve that and the the rules in italics above was my solution!

Unfortunately, now I’ll have to pay the price to go back and edit about 1800 poems where I had applied this punctuating syntax applied. I guess that will be my summer’s menial blogging work, to change a page or set of 20 poems a day, with a few more technical tweaks while I’m at each to adapt to this new layout that I really like! The rest of the poems are of more formal forms, like sonnets, that use more traditional punctuation, so I am OK there, but it’s still 1800 poems to update!!!

I’ll remove that last paragraph above, and this one, once done, but just so you know if you see a lot of poems that doesn’t seem to properly read like it should if you stuck to the rules above.

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