Ponctuation Matters

Je peux me consumer de tout l'enfer du monde,
Jamais je ne perdrai cet émerveillement 
Du langage


La liberté n'est pas donnée il faut la prendre nous dit Meret Oppenheim. Aujourd'hui plus que jamais sans doute. Plus que jamais sans doute ressentons-nous aujourd'hui l'urgence de vivre et de nous tenir debout. De nous tenir debout avec des mots qui brûlent et des phrases en boucle. Avec des phrases en boucle debout avec des mots plus que jamais. De nous tenir debout dans l'urgence plus que jamais d'attraper la liberté par un bout. A Gertrude Stein plus que jamais debout en boucle par un bout et à jamais parce qu'elle m'a appris la liberté de la ponctuation et de la place des mots de la place des mots en boucle. Debout et par un bout le petit bout avec ou sans virgule avec ou sans point d'interrogation. Si une question est une question pourquoi n'en voir que le bout le petit bout pour en venir à bout. 

There are some punctuations that are interesting and there are some punctuations that are not. Let us begin with the punctuations that are not. Of these the one but the first and the most the completely most uninteresting is the question mark. The question mark is alright when it is all alone when it is used as a brand on cattle or when it could be used in decoration but connected with writing it is completely entirely completely uninteresting. It is evident that if you ask a question you ask a question but anybody who can read at all knows when a question is a question as it is written in writing. Therefore I ask you therefore wherefore should one use the question mark. Beside it does not in its form go with ordinary printing and so it pleases neither the eye nor the ear and it is therefore like a noun, just an unnecessary name of something. A question is a question, anybody can know that a question is a question and so why add to it the question mark when it is already there when the question is already there in the writing. Therefore I never could bring myself to use a question mark, I always found it positively revolting, and now very few do use it.  


And now what does a comma do and what has it to do  and why do I feel as I do about them.
What does a comma do.
I have refused them so often and left them out so much and did

without them so continually that I have come finally to be indifferent to them. I do not now care whether you put them in or not but for a long time I felt very definitely about them and would have nothing to do with them.
As I say commas are servile and they have no life of their own, and their use is not a use, it is a way of replacing one’s own interest and I do decidedly like to like my own interest my own interest in what I am doing. A comma by helping you along holding your coat for you and putting on your shoes keeps you from living your life as actively as you should lead it and to me for many years and I still do feel that way about it only now I do not pay as much attention to them, the use of them was positively degrading. Let me tell you what I feel and what I mean and what I felt and what I meant. 

Gertrude Stein, On Ponctuation in Lectures in America, 1935

Photograph: Carl Van Vechten, Portrait of Gertrude Stein, 1934

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