Writing Poetry: End-Stops, Enjambment, and Caesura - Page 2


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Thread: Writing Poetry: End-Stops, Enjambment, and Caesura

  1. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by amsawtell View Post
    Do you mean an em dash, Pip? Those are considered an end-stop at the end of lines and a caesura when in the middle.
    No, I was referring to extra white space within the line of a poem as a form of caesura. My understanding is that it is to pace the reading of a poem within a line as opposed to white space as a divide between stanzas. Poetry is also visual so by including extaa spaces you are emphasing a point and giving the reader time to reflect

    This is still a a relatively new concept to me so I could be a little hazy in my understanding of the purpose of its application.
    Last edited by PiP; December 13th, 2016 at 01:48 PM.
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  2. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by PiP View Post
    No, I was referring to extra white space within the line of a poem as a form of caesura. My understanding is that it is to pace the reading of a poem within a line as opposed to white space as a divide between stanzas. Poetry is also visual so by including extaa spaces you are emphasing a point and giving the reader time to reflect

    This is still a a relatively new concept to me so I could be a little hazy in my understanding of the purpose of its application.
    Okay, I know what you mean and I ran across one of those just the other day. If I remember where I'll get it posted up. You are correct in their usage.

    Quote Originally Posted by Firemajic View Post
    Soooo.... really... it is up to the poet?
    In a nutshell, yes. There might be considerations other than whim that a poet uses to determine how a line ends. For instance, Andrew Marvell's poem was accommodating a rhyme and meter.

  3. #13
    AMSAWTELL -- Don't know why you apologized for the "quality" of your opener to this thread. You wrote a succinct, inclusive summary of this complex issue. Good job. I say.


    Grabbing a number from the air, I'd guess that 90% of poetry written in the modern era is free verse, and I'd suggest the "era" maybe starts with HD, just before WW I, when she was editor of The Egotist. Free verse essentially means that the poet has to reinvent the SHAPE of their work with every poem they write, a heady responsibility. The internal 'devices' of poetry--assonance, alliteration, rhythm, tonal integrity, etc. --remain critical, in fact with the absence of end-rhyme and regularized metre, even greater weight falls on these 'devices' to keep a piece poetic. Few novelists, intent on developing characters and forwarding plot, inculcate poetic qualities to their prose. Cormac McCarthy is a notable exception. Witness this brief passage from All The Pretty Horses:

    At the hour he'd always choose when the shadows were long and the ancient road was shaped before him in the rose and canted light like a dream of the past where the painted horses and the riders of that lost nation came down out of the north with their faces chalked and their long hair plaited and each armed for war which was their life and the women and children and women with children at their breasts all of them pledged in blood and redeemable in blood only.

    I find myself rocking in my chair when I read McCarthy, just as I do when I read poetry. Hardly a defensible criterion for a definition of poetry, but interesting at the least, no? I quoted that quick taste of McCarthy so that I could ask this important question: is McCarthy writing poetry? The envelope please--AH! the answer is 'No', because his PRIMARY purpose is to forward plot and develop characters as vehicles through whom to promote and advance the details of plot or tell his story. Prose uses process to further its agenda which, in non-fiction, is to provide information so seamlessly that form disappears. Business readers, for example, couldn't care less about the form of the message that tells them their shipment will be late and only passing interest in why it will be late--they want to know only ONE thing--WHEN WILL THEY GET THEIR STUFF ! So the writer gets that info in the first sentence, uses no adjectives, standard sentences (subject-verb-object), strips the language buck naked and to the point and ensures the piece is no more than about four lines long. Fiction writers--thank God!--do not take that 'lean and hungry' approach to style, but however ornate a novelist's style might be, their primary purpose is to advance their story, not invite primary attention to the way in which the story is told.

    For me, the two seminal statements on this very difficult issue were made in the 1950s by Charles Olson in his essay Projective Verse and by Robert Creeley. The former is a dense and difficult read. Distilled to an absurd simplicity, it comes down to 'phasing' the words and lines on the page in terms of breath units or natural pulses, rather than grammar, sentence structure, or even phrasal logic--tho such units may well (and do) often coincide with breath units. The latter, Creeley's statement in a letter to Olson is deceiving in its simplicity. Creeley said: FORM IS NEVER MORE THAN AN EXTENSION OF CONTENT. Whoof! Just when I think I've fully absorbed what that statement means, the damned thing slithers away from me like an eel in a tub of olive oil. . . . I found some help from an unlikely source, which I highly recommend to everyone who hasn't heard it--Keith Jarrett's Koln Concert. (longest jazz piano solo ever) Pretty sure the entire concert in on YouTube. In the first 1/4 of the piece you'll hear him searching, searching, searching for the full FORM of the piece. Then the music finds it, and the rest is. . .enough of me. PLEASE go listen to it.

    Amsawtell's excellent summary, which started this thread, deals with the core of dealing with the freedom of free verse, if you will. Firemajic asks, "Soooo.... really... it is up to the poet?" Yes, it is, but with constraints in the same way that the Declaration of Independence does NOT mean that individuals are free to run about independently doing whatever to hell they want. The core idea of Form Is Never More Than An Extension of Content is that the one will find the other in a marriage of 'rightness' that is declared by their indivisibility. Their fusion. Alexander Pope used and perfected the closed or so-called Heroic couplet because he thought aphoristically and wanted to express himself in tight, contained units of thought or description. The closed couplet was the perfect vehicle for his artistic needs and the aesthetic 'tidiness' of his times. The same period produced miniature paintings and the cameo brooch.

    What this rambling (I'm good at that. It's a definite talent. . .)post comes down to is: if the poet is truly tuned into his or her content and is projecting it naturally and honestly onto the page, the devices used will seem emotionally fused to the content itself. If a white space appears mid-line between two words that might not normally be separated, some kind of discernible aesthetic logic should be in play. And that little point introduces a critical component in much free verse tat is rarely even mentioned when we address 'conventional' poetry. Free verse of the kind I've been concerned with here (and Amsawtell too, methinks) should ideally be read ALOUD for the breathing of the poet to be discernible. Reading aloud necessarily involves the reader in the tissue of the poem in an involved and intimate way not expected of 'conventional' poetry. Of course we become involved in 'conventional' poetry, but not as participants and co-authors for heaven's sake! But surely it is true that when we try to 'breathe' our way thru a free verse poem, we are joining the poet's terms of creativity in a unique way. We are in a sense actually helping write the poem.

    Sorry if I'm a bit all over the lot. As a poet, I find this whole proposition about form being an extension of content very heady stuff. . .very important stuff for all of us, and thanks to Amsawtell for showing the way

  4. #14
    Clark, I want to talk about this, but I will stick to enjambment for the moment. I am a prose writer, but I think I can learn from what amsawtell is teaching, and I thank her for that. She has suggested that I cannot learn from this lesson because I am a prose writer. But I find basic principles of communication.

    I suggested that we need to pay attention to what enjambment does to the start of next line. That seems plausible to me. Is that just my perspective from prose? I don't get it.

    Laughing, I suggested a change in enjambment that destroyed the rhyme! I didn't realize the poem rhymed! That was one of the stupidest suggestions I have ever read. I can see it would take a lot patience to have a prose writer in this discussion. Thanks for that.
    Modern Punctuation and Grammar: Tools not Rules is finally published and available for $3 Hidden Content . Should be mandatory for serious writers, IMO. Italics, Fragments, Disfluency, lists, etc. But also commas and paragraph length. Discussed use of adverbs, and ends with a chapters on the awesome moment and the grammar of action scenes. Description at my Hidden Content

  5. #15
    I think you are thinking of poetic lines in the same way you would lines of prose, Emma. While this will aid the grammatical structure of any poem you write it damages the things that you could do with the line. For instance a friend of mine wrote:

    You helped me up the steps, baby

    steps.
    See how with the enjambment across two stanzas forces "baby" to mean two different things and to work in two different ways? (I apologize to my friend, I'm quoting from memory).

    You're right in that the beginning of a line has an emphasis on it too. However, the end of the line has more of a stress than the beginning in poetry. It's also a visual medium. A reader'S eyes will be drawn to the end of lines first.

  6. #16
    Amsawtell

    That's using enjambment to form a "Pun Metaphor" on the end of the line. Double meanings due to the line breaks. However pun metaphors can be found mid line as well due to caesuras as another device.

    a poet friend
    RH Peat

  7. #17
    Emma -- Enjambment could also be relevant, I suppose, in a kind of avant garde prose that co-mixed poetic form and prose. Nothing wrong with that, but in such writing, the enjambment usually occurs in the poetry section, because that's where enjambment is relevant . Or you can have fun or pun enjambment as Amsawtell just illustrated above . Generally speaking, however, speculating about or trying to work with enjambment in standard prose formatting is not very productive at all.
    .

  8. #18
    Clark's right.

    Prose is already enjambed for the most part. but a mixture might actually work. Part of what enjambment does to poetry is speed up the text at the end of the line; this shortens the line breath pause in versification. It also empowers the head of the following line in cadence.

    Prose on the other hand doesn't need enjambment because it has forward motion in the text reading from line to line due to sentence structure and punctuation. There are no versification breath pauses in prose; which poetry has. So prose naturally flows forward reading from line to line in the text.

    Enjambment is a poetic device. But if you mixed prose and poetry like a haibun structure with a free verse instead of a haiku within the form's structure; you could enjamb the poem part to flow more like the prose that has been written.

    Understand that versification itself is a meter due to breath pauses at the end of the line. Just like cadence is an irregular meter within the internal line, hitting the accents inside the line. But language itself has rhythm due to cadence. Each language has its own unique cadences. Those rhythms can be imitated as accents.

    In poetry enjambment draws lines closer together; thus speeding up the lines or stanzas within a poem. It also tends to put a noun near the head of the following line which empowers the head of the next line with an accented word. This is why the device is used in poetry. It can not only smooth out the flow, but it can also regulate it at different speeds within the complete poem (making the musical rhythms faster and slower), so that the lines don't all end stop with a heavy bang or thump on the end of the line. With rhyme meter and punctuation you can make the end of the line quite heavy, with an accent, a rhyme & a punctuation mark. That's a thud clunk on the end of every line. Enjambing a rhyme softens that out some. Enjambment is not a simple device at all it is very complex due to what it does in poetry.

    a poet friend
    RH Peat

  9. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by clark View Post
    Generally speaking, however, speculating about or trying to work with enjambment in standard prose formatting is not very productive at all.
    He put his hand under her blouse -- she gasped -- and touched her soft skin.
    He put his hand under her blouse and touched -- she gasped -- her soft skin.

    Obviously, that's not enjambment. But there's a break, and it makes a difference where that break goes. I like the second a lot more than the first, and the principles of enjambment could get me there. (The first is kind of the way Stephen King wrote his line: He runs his hands up her smooth sides -- she gives a tiny jump at his initial touch -- and beneath the inside-out shirt.)

    And most of my short stories include a sentence broken up by a new paragraph, requiring me to decide where to break the sentence.

    But right, I had to work hard to find any relevance of this lesson to prose, but I did, and I'm happy I read about enjambment and practiced it and thought about it.
    Modern Punctuation and Grammar: Tools not Rules is finally published and available for $3 Hidden Content . Should be mandatory for serious writers, IMO. Italics, Fragments, Disfluency, lists, etc. But also commas and paragraph length. Discussed use of adverbs, and ends with a chapters on the awesome moment and the grammar of action scenes. Description at my Hidden Content

  10. #20
    You bring a unique perspective, Emma.
    Last edited by Ariel; December 14th, 2016 at 10:01 PM.

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