Why Capitalize the First Letter of Every Line in Poetry? - Page 2


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Thread: Why Capitalize the First Letter of Every Line in Poetry?

  1. #11

  2. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by ArrowInTheBowOfTheLord View Post
    Okay, I'll fight for it. Just to be clear, I'm not saying always capitalize first letters -- just when it works. Here are some good reasons:

    1) When you want the poem to read more slowly
    2) When you want to evoke a classic style
    3) When you have some lines starting as sentences and some not, but want it to appear consistent (esp. for metered poetry)
    4) The only time I can see it working well in free verse is when you want the poem to feel very fragmented

    That being said, as others have mentioned, poems with heavy use of enjambment are probably not the best for this style. Some enjambment is ok in the capitalized style, I think, but not the level of enjambment common in most free verse. That's why I don't think it really works for free verse, usually. BUT I almost always do it in metered poetry. To me, at least, a poem of mine like "The War God" would look so weird with lowercased first letters.

    I think that you have stated a 'reason' for capitalization and that is fine with me. There should be a reason for doing it and not just a default way that is carried over from an earlier time. I find that I don't mind it in the older stuff because it is expected. In the newer work that I read I find myself asking why it is there and if there doesn't seem to be a reason, it is annoying. If there is a reason that is discernible, I'm good with it.
    There is no life I know
    To compare with pure imagination.
    Living there you’ll be free
    If you truly wish to be.~ Willy Wonka

  3. #13
    Good grief! A dozen posts on this tired old saw! Must be a slowwwwww day at the office. Would anyone care to count the individual panels in a roll of toilet paper? But we're poets, dammit! . . .we can do anything we want. I think I'll start a post re-introducing "zounds!" and "forsooth!" as expletives . . . .



    ________________________________________________

    "I believe in nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections and the Truth of the imagination". Keats, ​Letters

    "No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main . . . any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls -- it tolls for thee. " John Donne, Meditation XVII

  4. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by ArrowInTheBowOfTheLord View Post
    Okay, I'll fight for it. Just to be clear, I'm not saying always capitalize first letters -- just when it works. Here are some good reasons

    1) When you want the poem to read more slowly
    But aren't there other pacing devices when writing poetry to achieve that effect? Maybe it only applies to free verse but when I see a a capital letter at the beinning of a line I assume it's a new thought not a continuation of the previous line. So I stop. Reread the previous line to check I've understood the meaning correctly. It doesn't slow me as a reader it actually takes me out of the poem. I don't find this so much with more traditional, rhyming and metered forms because the brain has probably been conditioned to scan the poem in a different way


    Quote Originally Posted by Pulse View Post
    This is a debate between the poem and the poet. A reader's prejudices may not be relevant.
    True. Do we write poetry to try and engage a reader or our own pleasure?
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  5. #15
    It would be futile to generalise. Some people write to explore, others to demonstrate skill; trends in presentation change.

    I find it useful to read eclectically; so although I prefer poems to start lines with lower case letters, I read a variety of styles and would not dismiss a poem I have glanced at without reading.
    Kind regards,
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  6. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by clark View Post
    I think I'll start a post re-introducing "zounds!" and "forsooth!" as expletives . . . .
    And why not? If they work for the poem, they work for the poem. I occasionally use 'ne'er' in metered poetry even though it's a bit archaic, because sometimes you need it for proper syllable count.

    Quote Originally Posted by PiP View Post
    But aren't there other pacing devices when writing poetry to achieve that effect? Maybe it only applies to free verse but when I see a a capital letter at the beinning of a line I assume it's a new thought not a continuation of the previous line. So I stop. Reread the previous line to check I've understood the meaning correctly. It doesn't slow me as a reader it actually takes me out of the poem. I don't find this so much with more traditional, rhyming and metered forms because the brain has probably been conditioned to scan the poem in a different way
    It's really good for me to be aware of this kind of thing because it's different from how I read poetry. Capitalization doesn't take me out of a poem, usually. But since I write to be read, I'm willing to bend on this relatively minor point, unless the poem looks very wrong lowercased. I've slowly adopted lowercasing, at least in free verse, simply because it throws people off less.
    In my mouth, if there be sweetness,
    It has come from my Creator;
    If my hands are filled with beauty,
    All the beauty comes from God.
    ~ from The Kalevala (paraphrased)

    Whom have I in heaven but You?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides You.

    ~ Psalm 73:25

    Christ is risen from the dead,
    trampling on Death by death,
    And on those in the tombs,
    lavishing light.






  7. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by ArrowInTheBowOfTheLord View Post
    It's really good for me to be aware of this kind of thing because it's different from how I read poetry. Capitalization doesn't take me out of a poem, usually. But since I write to be read, I'm willing to bend on this relatively minor point, unless the poem looks very wrong lowercased. I've slowly adopted lowercasing, at least in free verse, simply because it throws people off less.
    Thoughts by Walt Whitman offers an interesting selection of punctuation

    but then you have great poets like Dylan Thomas and Sylvia Plath who capitalize the first letter of every line. Then we have talented young poets such as Ocean Vuong
    https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poe...h-burning-city
    who has a completely different style

    and The Water Replies by Luke Kennard


    Maybe the poet crafts the words and formatting and the reader decides which style they prefer when its printed on a the page?

    Ponderous

    Quote Originally Posted by clark View Post
    Good grief! A dozen posts on this tired old saw! . .
    and Clark the teeth of your circular saw may be blunt and well worn but to those of us still exploring poetry we look at the discussion with fresh eyes and a new set of teeth

    We learn through discussion and, while capitalization annoys me, I find it interesting to explore other POVs
    Last edited by PiP; December 8th, 2020 at 10:48 PM.
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  8. #18

  9. #19
    Arrow-- Touche (how d'ya do an acute accent?), my young marksman/woman! Touche! Your more forgiving shaft hit my calcified gut with unerring accuracy. Actually, I meant not so much the practice as the overtalking ABOUT the practice.



    ________________________________________________

    "I believe in nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections and the Truth of the imagination". Keats, ​Letters

    "No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main . . . any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls -- it tolls for thee. " John Donne, Meditation XVII

  10. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by ArrowInTheBowOfTheLord View Post
    I sometimes capitalize first letters; sometimes don't. It depends on what degree of separation between lines I want the reader to feel. For a more structured poem, I tend to like capitalized first words. Or, if I'm writing a poem to be read aloud, I also like capitalized first words, because it helps me scan the poem without getting lost. I used to hate how non-capitalized lines looked at all, but now I've gotten used to it, at least for free verse. Not capitalizing can help with enjambment, or if you want a poem to be read faster (capitalizing first words slows down the reading, to me, which can be a good or bad thing depending on what effect you want).

    I don't understand how the current year is relevant to the discussion, though (???).
    I too agree with you totally, actually I too capitalise the first alphabet of the line, for the same reason.

    Thanks for writing it here.

    Ritu

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