By Yemi Adesanya
Awaken from a Comma,
As someone shouted: “His Colon is on fire!”
Saved by a timely Exclamation!
Now he’s gotta live with a Semicolon;
Punched by Punctuation Mark
Who thought he could win an Apostrophe for the move
‘Twas pretty stupid, Period.
The hypocrisy of a Hyphen
Joining two unmarried words
In pseudo-matrimony; don’t Quote me
But I’d say, “There’s a big Question Mark there.” Wouldn’t you?
What a bunch of Special Characters!
The author uses capitalization to emphasize certain words. Each of her “Special Characters” or punctuation marks is capitalized as well as the words “Quote” (10) and “Special Characters” (12). This shows the importance of these words. Since Quote could simply be a short form of quotation mark this would mean the only non-punctuation words the poet has chosen to highlight are the words “Special Characters” (12). This suggests that punctuation is special and not to be taken lightly or dismissed as unimportant.
The poet also uses alliteration “hypocrisy of Hyphen” (8) and “Punched by Punctuation Mark” (5). With hs in the first instance, the poet uses euphonic language ironically as she is suggesting the hyphen is an unpleasant creator of discord. The euphony is an illusion to lull the listener/reader into believing there is good is something bad. The second instance ps are used. The three capital letters make this read like a title. Again violence is masked with euphony. The poet appears to be suggesting that bad things can come in good packages.
In the first stanza, two puns appear. “Awaken from a Comma, / As someone shouted: “His Colon is on fire!” (1-2). A Comma is linked to a coma and colon the punctuation mark is likened to the organ. The use of the word “Awaken” (1) to start the poem suggests a prior time of sleep. A life without punctuation is one-half live perhaps. Here there are overt images of violence. We are awakened from sleep only to find a loss. A life lived fully cannot be without pain.
There are repeated exclamation marks and personal pronouns throughout the poem. Exclamation marks suggest shouting. Shifts from he earlier in the poem to I and you in the last stanza suggest that the poet wishes to address the reader directly. This is a call to arms. Action is needed, no longer can people lie silent and still. The center of the poem is comprised of two longer sentences and places that lack punctuation at line breaks. The suggests a fast pace as less punctuation means less to slow the reader down. Attention having been grabbed we are now racing to the finish line or the end of the poem.
There are two instances of slang in the poem “gotta” (4) and “‘Twas,” (7). Dialect words serve to slow the pace since they are unfamiliar to the reader’s eye. They also grab attention and direct it to the words directly around themselves. “Now he’s gotta live with a Semicolon;” (1) and “’Twas pretty stupid, Period.” (7). Both of these are examples of foolishness and loss.
Overall, the poem uses punctuation as first a playful exercise in examining the use of punctuation. The poet though is able to go deeper and use her examination of how punctuation works to look at the human condition. She uses its use as a metaphor for life and says that like life it is necessary and sometimes painful.