6
   

What do the line breaks in poems do?

 
 
Reply Sat 22 Jan, 2011 07:55 pm
Newbie.
 
roger
 
  3  
Reply Sat 22 Jan, 2011 08:08 pm
@The Pentacle Queen,
What I'm going to say is merely one person's opinion.

Since poetry today doesn't have rhyme, meter, or meaning they have to use irregular lines, strange punctuation, and odd capitalization so you know it's poetry and not meaningless gibberish.

There!
Lash
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Jan, 2011 09:58 pm
Line breaks and other poetic devices are used to focus the reader's attention to something that furthers the writer's intention.

I'll get an example.
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Jan, 2011 10:02 pm
@roger,
Good answer Roger. Don't forget that the end of the line is also to help the reader for...
timing and dramatic pauses ...
especially when the reader reads the poem aloud.
0 Replies
 
Lash
 
  2  
Reply Sat 22 Jan, 2011 10:07 pm
@Lash,
Pity me not because the light of day
At close of day no longer walks the sky;
Pity me not for beauties passed away
From field and thicket as the year goes by;
Pity me not the waning of the moon,
Nor that the ebbing tide goes out to sea,
Nor that a man’s desire is hushed so soon,
And you no longer look with love on me.

This love I have known always: love is no more
Than the wide blossom which the wind assails,
Than the great tide that treads the shifting shore,
Strewing fresh wreckage gathered in the gales.
Pity me that the heart is slow to learn
What the swift mind beholds at every turn.

Like the line This love I have known always: love is no more

She goes on to finish a thoughtlove is no more than the wide blossom...

But, love is no more resonates. She's saying her love is lost - although she's saying something else, as well....

This is a sonnet, which doesn't lend its form to more random line endings. I mean this poetry form is highly regulated by length and rhyme scheme, but I always remembered how much this woman could say withon the boundaries of such an ordered form.

Line stops can make you linger on a sound, an image, or make one line mean two things...
The Pentacle Queen
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Jan, 2011 10:10 pm
@Lash,
Lash wrote:


This is a sonnet, which doesn't lend its form to more random line endings. I mean this poetry form is highly regulated by length and rhyme scheme, but I always remembered how much this woman could say withon the boundaries of such an ordered form.

Line stops can make you linger on a sound, an image, or make one line mean two things...


Thank you, Lash, that is useful. Would you mind explaining how it ends in random line endings? Thanks.

Ah, an indication that it could mean two things.
Lash
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Jan, 2011 01:00 am
@The Pentacle Queen,
There is less pattern to Seamus Heany's Digging.

Digging by Seamus Heaney

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pin rest; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down <--breaks the rhythm with a choppier length and abrupt quit of the line. Focuses at least MY mind on the form of his father, bent over the dirt.

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging. <-- Again, his father laboring,..makes me think he spent a great deal of his life working, the repetition of 'digging' and the line stop working in concert to make me think of a man who took his role as provider to his family very somberly - and his son's perception centers around his patient work in the earth...or metaphorical to other work...

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man. <--line stop is quite dramatically shorter. He takes the reader back another generation. This point of generations of hardworking men very important to convey - evidenced by the writer's extreme departure from the natural rhythms used up to this point. So generational transfer of "male values" becomes a focused theme.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.
I guess you follow the use of random line stops now, following the theme.
Smile
roger
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Jan, 2011 02:42 am
@The Pentacle Queen,
That means we weren't. No more wisdom for you.
0 Replies
 
wayne
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Jan, 2011 05:24 am
In some cases the/ each stanza is meant to be sung to a particular tune.
Poetry is very similar to music. Or was, as roger pointed out, the meter isn't neccessarily there anymore.
However, Rap ( rythmic american poetry) still applies some of the principle.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Jan, 2011 05:34 am
As Roger and Wayne have pointed out, the meter of poetry has often been very important. I was always taught to read poetry by the punctuation, but the meter is seductive. Here's an example from Emily Dickinson in which the meter, the rhythm of the poem is as important as the content. (Miss Dickinson, a recluse, is writing about the deaths of her parents, with whom she lived all her life.)

My life closed twice before its close;
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me,
So huge, so hopeless to conceive,
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.


An example in which the meter is less important, but still lends a significant cadence is W. B. Yeats' The Lake Isle of Innisfree:

I will arise and go now,
And go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there,
Of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there,
A hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there,
For peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning
To where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer,
And noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now,
For always night and day
I hear lake water lapping
With low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway
Or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
wayne
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Jan, 2011 05:53 am
@Setanta,
Good example, I really like the lake isle, that style appeals to me.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Jan, 2011 05:55 am
I regret the rise of "free verse" (which is, to my way of thinking, no verse at all) precisely because it loses the musical aspect of metered poetry.
0 Replies
 
wayne
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Jan, 2011 06:09 am
@wayne,
I think what I like is the meter is there, but absent lilting. The poem takes a unique meter from the reader, which suits my opinion that poetry is to be read aloud.
0 Replies
 
The Pentacle Queen
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Jan, 2011 06:31 am
@Lash,
Lash wrote:

There is less pattern to Seamus Heany's Digging.

Digging by Seamus Heaney

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pin rest; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down <--breaks the rhythm with a choppier length and abrupt quit of the line. Focuses at least MY mind on the form of his father, bent over the dirt.

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging. <-- Again, his father laboring,..makes me think he spent a great deal of his life working, the repetition of 'digging' and the line stop working in concert to make me think of a man who took his role as provider to his family very somberly - and his son's perception centers around his patient work in the earth...or metaphorical to other work...

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man. <--line stop is quite dramatically shorter. He takes the reader back another generation. This point of generations of hardworking men very important to convey - evidenced by the writer's extreme departure from the natural rhythms used up to this point. So generational transfer of "male values" becomes a focused theme.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.
I guess you follow the use of random line stops now, following the theme.
Smile


Thank you very much lash. This is stuff to get me going.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  4  
Reply Sun 23 Jan, 2011 07:37 am
@The Pentacle Queen,
Quote:
What do the line breaks in poems do?

I think line breaks in poems do the same thing as the vertical lines at the end of bars do in music.They help establish the rhythm and the structure of the piece.
0 Replies
 
PUNKEY
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Jan, 2011 08:36 am
The Western world does not like pauses. We like things spit out all at once, especially answers. And we answer the question or make the most important point first.

The Chineses speak in several phrases, each with a pause, with the last phrase tending to be the most informative.

Line breaks force me to pause and listen better.
0 Replies
 
Gargamel
 
  2  
Reply Sun 23 Jan, 2011 09:08 am
I disagree that there is no musical aspect to free verse, and in fact I think line breaks do much to create the music in a poem. Particularly in terms of tempo. Furthermore, as Lash hinted at, the physical shape of a poem should accord with its content.

If I had to specify opposite poles of line break strategy, I'd say William Carlos Williams and Whitmna, off the top of my head. Check it:

The Great Figure (Williams)

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
fire truck
moving
tense
unheeded
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city


Verse 3 of I Sing the Body Electric (Whitman)

I know a man, a common farmer—the father of five sons;
And in them were the fathers of sons—and in them were the fathers of sons.

This man was of wonderful vigor, calmness, beauty of person;
The shape of his head, the pale yellow and white of his hair and beard, and the immeasurable meaning of his black eyes—the richness and breadth of his manners,
These I used to go and visit him to see—he was wise also;
He was six feet tall, he was over eighty years old—his sons were massive, clean, bearded, tan-faced, handsome;
They and his daughters loved him—all who saw him loved him;
They did not love him by allowance—they loved him with personal love;
He drank water only—the blood show’d like scarlet through the clear-brown skin of his face;
He was a frequent gunner and fisher—he sail’d his boat himself—he had a fine one presented to him by a ship-joiner—he had fowling-pieces, presented to him by men that loved him;
When he went with his five sons and many grand-sons to hunt or fish, you would pick him out as the most beautiful and vigorous of the gang.

You would wish long and long to be with him—you would wish to sit by him in the boat, that you and he might touch each other.


Regardless of whatever the "rules" are for reading poetry, the severe vertical nature of Williams' poems creates a certain drama. He wants the reader to hang onto every word, almost in isolation. Now imagine if Whitman were to do that with this excerpt--two- or three-word lines would completely contradict the scope of his subject. And you could say that in general about him--he ******* wrote about everything. I know every poet writes about everything, but Whitman tried to catalog it all, it seems. Anyway, his longer lines enable these sweeping, tumbling verses.

Uh, but what was my point? Well, there are a million other tricks for creating music in a poem: anaphora, assonance, and alliteration (see what I did there?), for example. Take Frank O'Hara's poem, Music (see what I did there?). Look closely, you'll hear the song (hint: "Mayflower Shoppe" and "table cloth"--the sonofabitch tried to sneak that rhyme past us!)

If I rest for a moment near The Equestrian
pausing for a liver sausage sandwich in the Mayflower Shoppe,
that angel seems to be leading the horse into Bergdorf's
and I am naked as a table cloth, my nerves humming.
Close to the fear of war and the stars which have disappeared.
I have in my hands only 35c, it's so meaningless to eat!
and gusts of water spray over the basins of leaves
like the hammers of a glass pianoforte. If I seem to you
to have lavender lips under the leaves of the world,
I must tighten my belt.
It's like a locomotive on the march, the season
of distress and clarity
and my door is open to the evenings of midwinter's
lightly falling snow over the newspapers.
Clasp me in your handkerchief like a tear, trumpet
of early afternoon! in the foggy autumn.
As they're putting up the Christmas trees on Park Avenue
I shall see my daydreams walking by with dogs in blankets,
put to some use before all those coloured lights come on!
But no more fountains and no more rain,
and the stores stay open terribly late.
0 Replies
 
The Pentacle Queen
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Jan, 2011 09:44 pm
Thank you gargamel, that was really useful.
Sometimes, what I don't understand is when the line breaks and it 'carries meaning over it'.
Like in Paralytic by Sylvia Plath:

It happens. Will it go on? ----
My mind a rock,
No fingers to grip, no tongue,
My god the iron lung

That loves me, pumps
My two
Dust bags in and out,
Will not

Let me relapse
While the day outside glides by like ticker tape.
The night brings violets,
Tapestries of eyes,

Lights,
The soft anonymous
Talkers: 'You all right?'
The starched, inaccessible breast.

Dead egg, I lie
Whole
On a whole world I cannot touch,
At the white, tight

Drum of my sleeping couch
Photographs visit me-
My wife, dead and flat, in 1920 furs,
Mouth full of pearls,

Two girls
As flat as she, who whisper 'We're your daughters.'
The still waters
Wrap my lips,

Eyes, nose and ears,
A clear
Cellophane I cannot crack.
On my bare back

I smile, a buddha, all
Wants, desire
Falling from me like rings
Hugging their lights.

The claw
Of the magnolia,
Drunk on its own scents,
Asks nothing of life.
Gargamel
 
  2  
Reply Mon 24 Jan, 2011 10:38 pm
@The Pentacle Queen,
The fancy word for that is called "enjambment."

I think the enjambments serve Plath's poem here in a few ways. First, they just make things more interesting. You can kind of imagine where the end stops would be if these were rendered tidy and self-contained verses, right? Like if "ticker tape" were the end of the first and "inaccessible breast" the end of the second? Far less dynamic, maybe even kind of boring. Whereas the enjambments keep you guessing and often defy your eyes' expectations, creating tension.

I particularly like what the enjambment between the second and third verse does to the first line of the third verse. "Let me relapse" becomes a command, which it would not be if affixed to the previous line, and really lends force to the middle of the poem.

And check out what happens when at the very end she gives you a verse with plain old, traditional end stops. She ******* punches you in the mouth, because by that point conformity is the last thing you're expecting.

It's possible to get too cute with enjambments, but a good one forces you to sit on the words a little longer and think about them, and that's a poet's job, to make you think about words.
PUNKEY
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Jan, 2011 10:48 pm
it may not always be so;and i say
that if your lips,which i have loved,should touch
another's,and your dear strong fingers clutch
his heart,as mine in time not far away;
if on another's face your sweet hair lay
in such a silence as i know,or such
great writhing words as,uttering overmuch,
stand helplessly before the spirit at bay;

if this should be,i say if this should be-
you of my heart,send me a little word;
that i may go unto him,and take his hands,
saying,Accept all happiness from me.
Then shall i turn my face,and hear one bird
sing terribly afar in the lost lands.

ee cummings
0 Replies
 
 

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