It seems to be a fad today to write poetry without upper case letters and  punctuation, perhaps some sort of statement against traditional poetry and the establishment, etc, etc.. We would not even consider submitting an essay without these conventions, so why do we do it in poetry? The better question, perhaps, is, “Why do we use punctuation?”. The simple answer is, “To assist in communication”. The comma is a pause; the period is a stop after a complete statement; a semicolon is somewhere between a pause and a stop; it connects two related complete thoughts. When we see them in poetry we pause with a comma for effect; we stop with a period to signify a change in thought and direction, and we use the semicolon to connect a series of related thoughts before we come to a complete stop and change direction.  When it comes to upper case letters, we have the usual names of people, places, and some things. We can also use it if we want to emphasize the importance of something, a kind of personification if you will. We usually begin a line with an upper case letter to signify that each line is supposed to carry a specific thought. The over all use of these conventions is above all to enhance communication; so if these conventions already do that, why not use them. Here are two versions of the same poem.

Traditional poem

The Changing Desert

I wander,
Barely breathing,
Into the desert of my mind.
No water,
No saving drops of moisture,
Just dry and silent faces
Carved on hot rocks
By my too hot mind,
Focused too long
On too hot thoughts.

Gentle rains fall on soft soil,
Nurturing luscious growth,
Bringing new life
To the images
Within my mind,
Continuously changing
The scenes of death before me,
Into peaceful paths,
Where hope lingers,
And grows into reality.


Modern version


i wonder barely breathing into the desert of my mind no water
no saving grace no saving drops of moisture                                     just dry and silent faces   carved on hot rocks
by my too hot mind focused too long                                                                       on too hot thoughts
bringing new life to the images                                                              withinmymind
continuously changing the images of death before me into peaceful paths           where hope lingers
and grows

I could make a case for every convention, or more accurately, lack of convention, but which do you prefer?