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I am quoting one of Rupi Kaur's poems. Kaur purposely writes using all-lowercase letters for the pleasing aesthetic of her poetry. However, this may make it a bit difficult to quote. In one of her poems, she uses a lowercase 'I' (as in the proper noun meaning myself). When quoting poetry with purposeful inaccurate capitalization, would it be appropriate to put a [sic] there?

  • Rupi Kaur's poem "the sun and her flowers" on page 29 of her book titled the same:

what is it with you and sunflowers he asks / i point to the field of yellow outside / sunflowers worship the sun i tell him / only when it arrives do they rise / when the sun leaves / they bow their heads in mourning / this is what the sun does to those flowers / it’s what you do to me

  • Example of a quotation from this poem, made by myself:

"i [sic] point to the field of yellow outside"

  • Possible proper quotation (subject of my question):

"i point to the field of yellow outside"

Out of the two examples shown above, which one is correct? I'm wondering if it is appropriate to use [sic] while quoting a poet that purposefully leaves their proper nouns as lowercase letters. Any answers are appreciated!

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    Why bother to use sic in any way at all in poetry? Poetry is what it is, and the reader should expect that. The worst thing you could do to a poem would be to lard it up with editing notes where none are needed. Example: While barred clouds bloom [sic] the soft-dying day, / And touch the stubble-plains [sic] with rosy hue; This benefits nobody, least of all the reader.
    – Robusto
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 19:22
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    Don't modify poetry. Write your own poem if you find a fault. Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 20:31

3 Answers 3

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The purpose of "sic" is to indicate to the reader that the original text has been preserved. There is no need to use it if the reader has no reason to suspect otherwise.

Therefore, if you were quoting more of the poem than that single line, the reader could be expected to be familiar with Kaur's writing style, etc., then lowercase "i" would probably not seem unusual, so "sic" would be unnecessary and might distract the reader.

On the other hand, if that one line were really being quoted without any context, then "sic" could be used to indicate that the "i" was being written as in the original, especially if that issue was somehow important to the discussion. (As mentioned in a comment below, an explanatory note would be another option.)

From CMOS (10th edition, section 10.66):

Sic ("so," "thus," "in this manner") may be inserted in brackets following a word misspelled or wrongly used in the original. . . . Overuse of this device, however, is to be discouraged. In most books it is unnecessary to call attention to every variant spelling, every oddity of expression, in quoted material.

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    Use of [sic] is limited to copyists who don't want to be blamed for mistranscribing a text. It's like use of the phrase "[emphasis in original]" that way. Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 20:33
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    I agree that if you're providing the whole poem, [sic] is not needed. However, I believe the question is asking what to do when you quote one line out of context. That is, if you just have "i point to the field of yellow outside" without the rest of the poem, what should you do then? What if you're quoting it in a location where the reader might not be familiar with the fact that Kaur is a poet who does the lowercase thing?
    – R.M.
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 14:53
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    If it really bothers you, you can add an explanatory note about the poet's use of capitals. Use of "sic" often raises more questions than it answers - why is this tagged? what does the quoter think it should be? why are some things tagged but others are not? If you do it once, you have to do it every time with everything slightly questionable.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 16:43
  • @R.M. Thanks, I've edited the answer to address that issue. Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 20:41
  • English is an odd language out in treating the first person pronoun as if it were a proper noun. They use lower case in French (je), Italian (io), Spanish (jo), German (ich), Greek (εγω), though the majority of these leave the first person pronoun out altogether.
    – Tuffy
    Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 19:34
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Kaur purposely writes using all-lowercase letters for the pleasing aesthetic of her poetry.

e.e. cummings did the same thing: see his poem "[i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)]"

No [sic] is used.

e.e.cummings' poetry is seen as being "wrong" if capitalised.

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No, think of E.E. Cummings. Rupi Kaur is not the first.

This is a great example:
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                                i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
From the Poetry Foundation site

One has to look to other poets and not any style guide.

Note the lower case i's and the lack of spaces.

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    That's a provocative spelling of e.e. cummings.... Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 17:39
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    @TobySpeight I have changed it. Edward Estlin Cummings, who was also known as E. E. Cummings, e. e. cummings and e e cummings Wikipedia. I doubt he would have minded though. I know his poems so well yet couldn't spell his name. Fancy that. :)
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 17:53
  • I would find the incorrect casing and spacing distracting, and just correct it. If the author want the poem to be read, then make it readable ffs.
    – Lenne
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 17:32
  • At least e. e. cummings wrote poetry worth reading.
    – Zahhar
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 20:43

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