Edited By Piers Pennington and Matthew Sperling
Charles Lock - Beside the Point: A Diligence of Accidentals 43
Charles Lock Beside the Point: A Diligence of Accidentals It is not a matter of justice. Justice is in another world. Or of injustice even; that is beside the point, or almost. — TCP, p. 26 beside the point comma or almost full stop It is standard practice to remove the indications of oral delivery when a paper is prepared for print; but not here, the better to observe and attend to the noises and the silences, of and by which poetry is composed: Apostrophe Tis a fearful thing in capital Winter To be shattered by the blast comma And to hear the rattling trumpet Thunder colon quote capital Cut away the mast exclamation point close quote So we shuddered there in silence comma dash For the stoutest held his breath comma While the hungry sea was roaring comma And the breakers talked with capital Death period This parodic exercise by Franklin P. Adams (first printed in 1919: thus beck- oning to a likewise italicised “Envoi”) poignantly expresses the absurdity in giving voice to punctuation: the rhythm is disturbed, and the rhyme lost. The poem is well titled “The Dictaphone Bard” and deserves notice: first, for being a poem entirely without punctuation; and second, as one that, by vocalising the symbols instead of silently pointing, turns a conventional 44 Charles Lock ballad into a strikingly modern poem, its rhythms not uncharacteristic of its time.1 Punctuation is traditionally consigned to the category of the acciden- tal. Is there an accidental, in any...
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