Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ode to the Semicolon

Below is a poem I wrote while in college but I've never done anything with it. Ruthless critique encouraged. Ego stroking accepted. Thanks for reading!

Ode to the Semicolon

The semi colon is a double edged sword:
it unites; it divides.
The semicolon is the esoteric symbol
which brings together the elite who know and can apply its function;
the semicolon is the eighth grade English class exercise
printed in the book at the gates of heaven,
where it will divide the souls who can make the ultimate transition
from those who choose the terminal destiny of a period.

The semicolon is the bivalve in the brimming ocean of punctuation.
It’s clauses connect like shimmering shells,
while it sits in the center—
a muscle admiring its beautifully balanced sides.

Bipeds who do not know the proper use of this prodigious piece of punctuation
should seek alternate means of marrying closely related independent clauses
in order to avoid inbred sentences.


  1. This is quite amusing and dry but I think you could spice this up, take it a step further. Try Apostrophe: addressing the semicolon directly. i.e. "O, Semicolon..." That way you can get out the "it"s for the better "you"--no, better "thou". What think-you? Parce a line or two! (See Shelley's odes--steal a trope or two--did you know that he wrote "Ode on the Wast Wind" in the cascine park in Florence? What a silly man. Also just read, in the novel "Timequake," that Kurt Vonnegut claims that semicolons are useless--for all of the reasons you state--I'll see if I can re-find the passage as it was quite amusing.)

  2. I love it! Shelley would be great inspiration, too.
    I just finished reading Slaughter House Five for the first time (how did I get this far in life without reading that?) and would love to hear what Kurt has to say about semicolons.
    Thanks so much for the suggestion. I'll try that and repost.

  3. Sibyl,
    I finally got to read this, and it's just the sort of self-referential kind of thing that I enjoy. I like Lee's suggestion, to address the semicolon directly, to milk the absurdity of talking to punctuation with so much imagery and depth. I wonder - could it be interesting, in your parody of the semicolon, to either overuse or under/not use the thing at all? To really make the writer's presence and disdain felt? I think it'd make that last line even more amusing...superficial suggestion, but I'm clueless with poetry. As you might know, I love edible, sensory words, and comparing punctuation to a bivalve is effective...maybe you could brighten that metaphor (? I don't know the grammatical terms too well) with some simple sensory vocabularly. 'Twas certainly nice to read your work.