Light at the End of the Tunnel Vision
We who love precise language
Need a finer way to convey
Disappointment and perplexity.
~ Paul Violi (Appeal to the Grammarians)
Contemporary poetry lore has it that on a
steamy Georgia summer morning, a self-styled
grammarian, comfy in a recliner, reading an
anthology of selected poetry, spat out a first
sip of morning coffee and gasped, shaken by
the violation of a style bible rule. A poet had
hyphenated an adverb ending in ly to an adjective.
Distraught, the word construction maven considered
corresponding with the poet to call out the grammatical
The pedant searched the Internet for information
about the poet. It turned out the poem’s author was
a professor of English and creative writing, editor,
biographer, had written a score of poetry books and
several fiction novels, won multiple literary awards,
and was a former Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom.
Chagrined, the would-be expert abandoned the idea of
contacting the hyphenation rule offender.
The perplexed authority, further unnerved, slumped
in disbelief, tabled the anthology and, wanting to reorient
to other topics, opened up the morning paper, settled on
a story about the recent election of new congressmen.
In the column a prominent AP journalist characterized the
representatives’ wives, described one as socially-adept,
perfectly-suited for her role as a newly-elected congressman’s wife.
with an avocation devalued by a poem and the fourth estate
it is said the subdued wordage purist refolded the newspaper,
picked up the manual of style and tossed both into a recycling
container and wept — or, so the story goes.
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Grammar rules don't always apply, especially in poetry.