Poetry and Song Lyrics

13.1     Fundamentals
13.2     Poetry within Narrative Text
13.3     Poetry in Stanza or Verse Form
13.4     Separation of Stanzas
13.5     Shape Poetry
13.6     Poems with Irregular Poetic Lines
13.7     Prose Poetry
13.8     Reference Marks and Notes in Poetry
13.9     Scansion, Accent, and Meter
13.10   Hymnals and Songbooks
13.11   Lyrics with Music Notation
13.12   Titles, Hymn or Song Numbers
13.13   Samples

13.1       Fundamentals

13.1.1     This section covers poetry written in prose, in rhyme, and in other configurations. It also covers lyrics written without musical notation, and the use of punctuation and shape as a poetic device.

See Section 15, Line-Numbered and Line-Lettered Text, §15.5, Numbered Lines in Poetry; §15.7, Poetic Rhyme Scheme.

13.1.2     Special Symbols and Transcriber's Notes

Special Symbols

Transcriber's Notes

13.1.3     A Braille Reader's Perspective

Centering poetry in print is visually attractive. This material is often centered on the page as well as on the line. In braille, the material must first be found. If a dedication is very short, the page may appear to be blank. Moving the material to the margin helps to identify the basic form of the poetry by the use of margins.

13.2       Poetry within Narrative Text

13.2.1     Follow print when poetry is embedded within narrative text.

a.  Retain font attributes.

b.  Follow print use for either a slash or vertical bar to indicate where one poetic line ends and another begins.

c.  Follow print for spacing of symbols, which may begin or end a braille line. Identify the symbols on the Special Symbols page, or in a transcriber's note before the text.

Example 13-1: Poetic Lines within Narrative Text

Poetic line separated from surrounding text by a slash before and after the poetic line

''' su7e/+ t 8! tru/ ,o!llo puts hm 9 _/
,on "s odd "t ( 8 9firm;y _/ ,w %ake ?

13.3       Poetry in Stanza or Verse Form

13.3.1     The indention pattern is based on the entire poem. The main entry begins in cell 1. Each subentry level begins two cells to the right of the previous level. All runovers begin two cells to the right of the farthest indented level.

One level: 1-3

Two levels: 1-5, 3-5

Three levels: 1-7, 3-7, 5-7

Four levels: 1-9, 3-9, 5-9, 7-9


a.  Poems are preceded and followed by a blank line. Exception: A blank line is not inserted between a cell-5 heading entry word and a poem in a glossary.

b.  A line of poetry may not be divided between braille pages.

Example 13-2: Poem with One Level

Four poetic lines, with each line beginning at the margin

,my t;gue1 e atom ( my blood1 =m'd f ?
⠀⠀soil1 ? air1
,born "h ( p>5ts born "h f p>5ts ! same1
⠀⠀& _! p>5ts ! same1
,i1 n[ ?irty-sev5 ye>s old 9 p]fect h1l?
,hop+ 6c1se n till d1?4

Example 13-3: Three-Level Poem

Three different left margins used with six poetic lines

,glory 2 6,god = dappl$ ?+s--
⠀⠀,= skies ( c\ple-col\r z a br9d$ c[2
⠀⠀⠀⠀,= rose-moles all 9 /ipple ^u tr\t t
,fre%-firecoal *e/nut-falls2 f9*es' w+s2
⠀⠀,l&scape plott$ & piec$--fold1 fall[1
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀& pl\<2
⠀⠀⠀⠀,& all trades1 _! ge> & tackle &

c.  All lines in centered, not shaped, poems or stanzas are in

See Sample 13-1: Centered Poem on page 13-13.

d.  Normal poetry indention is used, even if print is deeply indented.

Example 13-4: Poem with Deep Indention

Four poetic lines, with the third line indented several inches

if ! be/ ( immortals re,y drives me on1
,h]a's "l ^: ?"u drums ! sky60
⠀⠀,s he %\t$
,la%+ ! rage & fi<t+-fury 9 e ,trojan4

13.4       Separation of Stanzas

13.4.1     Stanzas are difficult to determine at a print page break when a poem doesn't have the same number of lines per stanza. Do not insert a blank line if it isn't clear there is a new stanza at the page break.

a.  Leave a blank line before each stanza or verse.

b.  Use cell-5 headings for stanza numbers.

c.  When a stanza begins at the top of a print page within a braille page, insert the page change indicator and leave one blank line before beginning the stanza.

d.  When a stanza ends on the last line of a braille page, a blank line is left at the top of the next braille page. The new stanza starts on line 2 when a running head is not used, or line 3 when a running head is used.

See Sample 13-2: Poem with Stanza Numbers starting on page 13-14.

13.4.2     Stanza Division. It is preferable to move the first line of a stanza to the next page than to have it by itself at the bottom of the page.

13.5       Shape Poetry

13.5.1     A shape poem is one that has its lines arranged to represent the shape of an object or to suggest action, motion, mood, or feeling. Include a description in a transcriber's note, or provide a tactile graphic, when it is important to show the poem's shape or spatial style.

13.5.2     Poetic lines are not always easy to determine in some shape poems. Use punctuation and change of thought as a guide.

See Sample 13-3: Shape Poem on page 13-16.

13.6       Poems with Irregular Poetic Lines

13.6.1     Use normal poetry format when the indentions of irregular poetic lines form a discernible pattern.

See Sample 13-4: Poem with Discernible Poetic Lines on page 13-17.

13.6.2     Treat the poem as a single level, with each poetic line in
1-3, when the indentions of irregular poetic lines have no discernible pattern or the poem uses uneven spacing. Some poems may need a transcriber's note of explanation. Sample:

The poem has inconsistent indention patterns which are not reproduced.


The poem has multiple irregular indentions which are not reproduced.

13.6.3     Use three blank cells to separate widely spaced words or phrases. Explain the blank cells in a transcriber's note. Sample:

Three blank cells indicate wide spacing.

See Sample 13-5: Poem with Uneven Indention and Wide Spacing starting on page 13-18.

13.6.4     When unusual combinations of punctuation marks and letters can create difficult reading:

a.  Use uncontracted braille.

b.  Insert a transcriber's note to explain the use of uncontracted braille. Sample:

This poem has unusual letter and punctuation combinations. Braille is uncontracted so punctuation can be identified easily.

c.  If it is necessary to distinguish between left and right parentheses shown in a poem, substitute ( (opening parentheses) and ) (closing parentheses). A transcriber's note is inserted before the poem to explain this substitution. Sample:

The opening parenthesis in the poem is (; the closing parenthesis is ).

See Sample 13-6: Embedded Punctuation in Uncontracted Poem on page 13-20.

13.7       Prose Poetry

13.7.1     Prose poetry is ordinary speech or writing without rhyme or meter. It is written in a narrative format that doesn't follow the normal rules for writing poetry.

a.  A prose poem is preceded and followed by a blank line.

b.  Print is followed for paragraph indention.

c.  Font attributes are ignored except where they are required for emphasis or distinction.

See Sample 13-7: Prose Poem on page 13-21.

13.8       Reference Marks and Notes in Poetry

13.8.1     References in poetry  are transcribed at the bottom of the print page, separated from the poetry by a note separation line "333333 (5, 25, 25, 25, 25, 25, 25). See Section 16, Notes.

A blank line is inserted between the end of a stanza, or the end of a poem, and the note separation line.

See Sample 13-8: Poem with Reference Marks on page 13-22.

13.9       Scansion, Accent, and Meter

13.9.1     Scansion is the analysis of a poem's meter, and marking the stressed and unstressed syllables in each line. There are a variety of print symbols used for marking scansion, accents/stress, and meter. Use these guidelines when structuring documents with different print symbols than those used here.

13.9.2     Follow print for symbols and terminology when identifying accent/stress symbols on the Special Symbols page, or in a transcriber's note before the text. Samples of print stress symbols:

/    /  Stressed syllable

x    x  Unstressed syllable


´   >   Stressed syllable

˘   ^   (45) Unstressed syllable

13.9.3     The complete poem, with accent marks or scansion, is written twice. The first writing includes the title and author or other attribution.

a.  Scansion, accent, and meter are not used in the first writing.

b.  Font attributions used to indicate stress are ignored in the first writing.

c.   The first and second writings are separated by a blank line.

d.  To help display the second writing, the "margin" for the second writing is cell 3, using the standard nested list format (3-7, 5-7).

e.  The second writing includes font attributes, scansion, accent, and meter symbols.

f.  The second writing is uncontracted with the appropriate accent/stress symbol inserted unspaced before the first vowel of the affected syllable, even when the symbol appears above a consonant or a different vowel.

Example 13-5: Diagrammed Scansion with Ictus (Slash) and X

x and / (slash) appear above vowels, indicating stress

,b s(t6 ,:at li<t "? yond] w9d{ br1ks8
⠀⠀,bxut ,,s/oft6 ,whxat ,,l/ight
⠀⠀⠀⠀thrxough ,,y/on,'dxer ,,w/in,'dxow

g.  When the symbol is shown above an initial capitalized vowel, the capital indicator precedes the accent symbol.

h.  Explain the two writings on the Transcriber's Notes page when there are multiple locations in the volume that use this technique. Explain the usage in a transcriber's note before the text when it happens in a single section in the volume. Sample:

The text is first shown without stress symbols, and then repeated with the appropriate symbols and no contractions. Stress symbols are inserted before the first vowel. Symbols used:

> Stressed syllable
^ (45) Unstressed syllable

See Sample 13-9: Poetic Lines with Stress Marks on page 13-23.

13.9.4     Meter. Each section between the slashes or vertical bars is a foot. Foot division can appear within a word. The meter is the number of feet in a line. A caesura indicates a long pause in the middle of a line.

a.  These symbols are used to represent the signs indicating meter or rhythmic pattern of poetic lines. Follow print spacing of symbols and punctuation.

b.  Meter symbols are identified on the Special Symbols page, or in a transcriber's note before the text. Use the names given in print (if any) when identifying the symbols for these signs. The foot is usually the slash or vertical bar (pipe). The caesura is usually the double slash or double vertical bar.

/     _/   Slash

//   _/_/ Double slash

|     @\   Vertical bar (pipe)

||   @\@\ Double vertical bar

c.  The foot and caesura symbols may begin or end a braille line when it is necessary to divide a poetic line between braille lines. Exception: Do not break a line at a meter symbol when it is unspaced within a word.

d.  A line break may not occur within a foot, e.g., between the vertical bars.

e.  Contractions are not used in the second writing when some words are syllabified, and metered lines show only foot and/or caesura symbols.

f.  Titles and authors are shown with the first writing only. Titles/authors are only included with the second writings if they include symbols of scansion, accent/stress, or meter.

g.  Attributions are shown with the first writing of the material and omitted in the second writing.

See Sample 13-10: Attribution with First Writing on page 13-24.

h.  Do not insert a letter indicator when foot division results in a letter standing alone.

See Sample 13-11: Sentences with Foot and Caesura Symbols on page 13-25.

i.   Contractions are used in the second writing when all words are not syllabified, and metered lines show only foot and/or caesura symbols. Exception: A word is uncontracted when an unspaced meter symbol is within a word.

Example 13-6: Word with Unspaced Internal Foot

Vertical bar appearing between words, and between letters within a word

,all ! ni<t sleep came n ^u my eyelids
⠀⠀,all ! @\ ni<t sleep @\
⠀⠀⠀⠀came n u@\pon my @\ eyelids

See Sample 13-12: Poetic Lines with Stress and Meter on page 13-26.

13.9.5     Diagrammed Scansion and Meter. Follow print for spacing and punctuation of scansion and meter symbols when the text shows only a diagram consisting of accent/stress and meter signs with no lines of poetry. Each diagrammed line is in 1-3.

Example 13-7: Diagrammed Scansion and Meter

Diagram of four lines of stressed and unstressed symbols, and a vertical bar used to indicate meter

^> @\ ^^> @\ ^^>
^> @\ ^^> @\ ^^>
> @\ ^^> @\ ^>
> @\ ^^> @\ ^>

13.10     Hymnals and Songbooks

13.10.1   Many sponsoring religious agencies have established specific formats and guidelines for the transcription of hymnals and songbooks, both with and without music. General directives are provided below for transcribing songs or hymns that appear in textbooks.

13.10.2   Lyrics without Music Notation. Each print line is in 1-3.

13.10.3   Lyrics with Music Notation. Follow the rules provided in the Music Braille Code 1997 when transcribing music notation, as well as any lyrics shown with that notation.

13.11     Lyrics with Music Notation

13.11.1   Music notation may be omitted when lyrics of a song or hymn are accompanied by music notation for illustrative purposes only, and there is no intention for that notation to be used for practice or performance. A transcriber's note is inserted to explain this omission, and the lyrics are transcribed as directed below.

13.12     Titles, Hymn or Song Numbers

13.12.1   The title or number (both, if shown in print) of each hymn or song is centered. Titles or numbers may be placed on line 1 unless a running head is used.

13.12.2   Information printed below the title, e.g., names of composer and/or arranger, source, or date of copyright, are grouped in 7-5. A blank line separates the title and this list.

a.  Permission-to-copy notices are in 7-5, on the line after the title or heading. See Section 9, Displayed Material, Attributions, and Source Information, §9.5, Source Citations and Permission to Copy.

b.  Information below the title and before the music is listed, each item in 7-5. This order must be followed: text centered below the title; text from the left side of the page; then text from the right side of the page.

c.  No blank lines are left between these items, but a blank line is left before the first verse.

See Sample 13-13: Song Title with Additional Information on page 13-27.

13.12.3   When it is not possible to include the title or number (with any accompanying information) and at least one braille line of the first verse at the end of a page, the song or hymn begins on a new braille page.

13.12.4   Songs with Verses

a.  Verse numbers are cell-5 headings.

b.  Print is followed for capitalization and punctuation of the verses.

c.  Hyphens that are printed between syllables are omitted, unless they are intended to be part of the word.

d.  Each line of the lyric is in 1-3. Use punctuation and rhyme scheme to determine each line of the lyric.

e.  When text shows first verse lyrics, or any portion of a song or hymn printed within the music notation, followed by the remaining verses printed in poetry format, the format provided is used for all the verses.

See Sample 13-14: Song with Verses on page 13-28.

f.  Print is followed  if the refrain or chorus is repeated.

g.  Print is followed if only the word refrain or chorus indicates the repetition.

13.13     Samples

Sample 13-1: Centered Poem, page 13-13

Sample 13-2: Poem with Stanza Numbers, page 13-14

Sample 13-3: Shape Poem, page 13-16

Sample 13-4: Poem with Discernible Poetic Lines, page 13-17

Sample 13-5: Poem with Uneven Indention and Wide Spacing, page 13-18

Sample 13-6: Embedded Punctuation in Uncontracted Poem, page 13-20

Sample 13-7: Prose Poem, page 13-21

Sample 13-8: Poem with Reference Marks, page 13-22

Sample 13-9: Poetic Lines with Stress Marks, page 13-23

Sample 13-10: Attribution with First Writing, page 13-24

Sample 13-11: Sentences with Foot and Caesura Symbols, page 13-25

Sample 13-12: Poetic Lines with Stress and Meter, page 13-26

Sample 13-13: Song Title with Additional Information, page 13-27

Sample 13-14: Song with Verses, page 13-28