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6.12 Capitalization and Punctuation : Fun With Grammar

Poetic License Instructions:
Below are two poems about the earth by American poets Victor Hernandez Cruz and e e cummings. Both poets have felt free to ignore standard capitalization and punctuation rules in order to emphasize other aspects of language. The point of this game is to see what happens when you put the poems into standard sentence form.

Victor Hernandez Cruz's poetry often mixes Spanish and English. In this poem, he lines up one language opposite the other. Choose one of the columns, depending on which language you prefer to play with.

Cruz has used all capital letters and no punctuation in his poem. Write the poem in sentence form, capitalizing only those words that need it and punctuating for standard sentences. Look for four sentences.

If you can, compare the sentences in the two different languages. Is the punctuation different? Discuss the images and the ideas in the poem with other students. It may help to decide who is being addressed with the word "you" in the poem's sixth line.

Ver-         
sion    ción
   
EACH LITTLE    CADA
PORE    PORO
HAS A LIGHT    TIENE UNA LUZ
AND DARKNESS    Y AFUERA
OUTSIDE    OSCURIDAD
YOU SHINE    TU BRILLAS
ONE HALF    UNA MITAD
GREEN    VERDE
THE OTHER    Y LA OTRA
BLUE    AZUL
WHAT A PICTURE    QUE PELICULA
LAND    TIERRA
THAT    QUE
JUMPS OUT    BRINCA DEL
THE WATER    AGUA
SALT COMES OUT    SALE SAL
OUT OF YOUR    DE TUS
BONES    HUESOS
TO MAKE    PARA HACER
MEAT    CARNE
WITH AIR    CON AIRE
LIKE POCKETS    COMO BOSILLOS
WITH MATCHES    CON FOSFOROS
INSIDE    ADENTRO


e e cummings doesn't even capitalize his own name. Although he has included some punctuation in the following poem, he has done so in an unusual way, and he has left out other punctuation marks that would help readers see the sentence structure in the poem.

Write the poem as three sentences with standard capitalization and punctuation.

Is the poem easier to understand in sentence form? Discuss the images and the ideas in the poem with other students. What are the advantages of the form that e e cummings used? What are the advantages of the sentence form?

O sweet spontaneous
earth how often have
the
doting

       fingers of
prurient philosophers pinched
and
poked

thee
, has the naughty thumb
of science prodded
thy

    beauty  . how
often have religions taken
thee upon their scraggy knees
squeezing and

buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive
gods
     (but
true
to the incomparable
couch of death thy
rhythmic
lover

       thou answerest

them only with

              spring)

Click here to see these poems in standard sentence forms (in both English and Spanish for Cruz's poem). But wait until you have come up with your own "translated" versions.

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