Is there a right answer?

punctuation poem

What is the above poem about? If faced with this question in an exam, would you assume that there had been some mistake, a typographical or printing error? When it was confirmed that this is how the poet intended his poem to be printed, how might you  attempt the question.

I like the answer put forward as a possibility by an academic whereby the absence of words is a deliberate act to oppose art in its current form, a rebellious stripping away of what we understand a poem to be. The spaces just as important as words, like a musical notation of silence or a painting that reveals itself by an act of spillage (such as turpentine on a white canvas).

Other possibilities occur to me such as an underwater conversation between two divers, André Letoit and the man in the submersible, Koos Kombuis. Or an experimental piece in which the reader is asked to create the words in brackets for themselves, help being given in the form of the exclamation and question marks. The imperative command so garbled or beyond understanding that clarification or confirmation is requested.

In reality the poem, Tipp-Ex Sonate, was a protest against government censorship in apartheid era South Africa by an activist called André Letoit who went by the name Koos Kombuis. Did he ever perform the poem? I wonder…




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