(I think I'll send this message to Mark also. It'll maybe give us
more to discuss, eh?)
You asked me about line breaks and how I decide where these take
I think in terms of limitations. One word can only and always
follow another. This can be confused to a certain extent by
writing in columns without clear instructions on how these columns
are expected to be read, but even so, if a reader chooses to read
from left to right across the column breaks, or if the reader
instead reads down column one prior to reading down column two,
that reader still only reads one word after another. Written
poetry is always limited by this written feature.
We can moreover disturb line breaks by sharing oral presentations
with simultaneous speakers recruited to help in disrupting the
usual page enforced limitations.
All that is obvious, of course, but it requires mention when
discussing line breaks.
I think of line breaks as a means toward maximizing the residual
tension within each specific piece. This is the first
This line, for instance, might be considered within a workshop
setting as wrong. Somebody would inevitibly object to its
in twain; this, then, the
Such an objection however misses the point that such a line pushes
expectation. The reader needs an object which adheres but instead
is given only a series of words which point and delay an expected
inevitable resolution. Instead the reader receives an
enjambment, another deferral.
In the larger scheme, the semi-colon also stands as representative
of the looming departure. The Wyatt material ends and something
else begins, but it does so with a series of stutters (commas),
and those stutters are emphasized by the lack of resolution at the
end of the line. Something is about to appear or occur or
something, but what is it?
The line is effectively divided "in twain," but immediately
following that division, it is further subdivided. This is a five
syllable line with three strong caesuras.
It's not up to me of course to claim that it successfully creates
tension, but my intention was to build this line in order to
Perhaps this line seems too contrived, I don't know. Poetry is
artifice, after all, and thus a contrivance.
I'm not sure if I am answering your question, but I do think of
line breaks as guided by the demands of the material. They land
where they land by the force of an inner necessity, and it's my
job to recognize that necessity.
Maybe it's personal.
It's odd to talk about my own poem in this way, I usually avoid
talking about what's going on in my poems.
Let's leave it at that for now.
I fool around with them, and a secondary consideration is how the
poem is intended to sound when read aloud, though this is more
variable and dependent upon circumstance. What seems right on one
occasion will probably seem wrong on another. It can boil down to
personal mood or the audience, how "they" respond to the material.
But the primary consideration is always how the words land on the
I didn't discuss end stops, some of which are false. That's also
Poems, in any case, have everything to do with how words are used.
In that way they don't resemble any other kind of writing in the
least. A poem is close to the bone and more related to painting
than prose. I don't much think of poems as writing. A poem is
something which gets made or simply progesses without end. A poem
doesn't in fact conclude, and line breaks illustrate this
resistance against conclusion; they carry a fundamental
understanding, a knowledge of material transience.