Poetry Writing Exercise #9: Enjambment

Discussion related to the topic Poetry Writing Exercise #9: Enjambment

Forum : All About Writing : Poetry Writing Exercise #9: Enjambment

Douglas
Posted at: Jul 25, 2010 at 4:10 AM 
Enjambment is the breaking of a syntactical unit across lines of a poem.

I know, that probably sounds complicated, but it really isn't. I promise.

It is common, when people write poems, to have each line either a complete thought (sentence) or at least a complete phrase/clause. You can see this easily by looking at an example like this: The Sound of Snow. Notice that in this poem, every line ends with some sort of punctuation mark, indicating the close of a phrase.

Enjambment is breaking phrases up in such a way that the end of a line does not coincide with the end of a phrase; the phrase ends somewhere in the next line. Take a look at this poem: Hawk III.

About halfway through the poem, you will find the following lines:

And watched the silhouetted hawks against
The back-lit sky, swim doggedly along
The tossing wind, unfettered and unfenced;


Notice that the phrases end halfway through the 2nd and 3rd lines of this segment. Of course, the rhymes still come at the end of the lines (against/unfenced) even though that's not where the thought breaks. That's enjambment. If you are used to entirely end-stopped (non-enjambed) poetry, enjambment can be startling to read, but it can also produce a smoother flow of thought.

This week, write enjambed couplets. You can write something longer than a couplet if you would like, but be sure to try to have several enjambed lines within your poem!

Enjambment is an interesting tool
to have, though oft it feels like breaking rules.
~Edited by Douglas, Jul 25, 2010 at 4:11 AM

Douglas
Posted at: Jul 25, 2010 at 4:39 AM 
This poem's rhyme scheme is ABABAB, and it is quite enjambed: Lighthouse

R. Wesley Lovil
Posted at: Jul 25, 2010 at 5:42 AM 
I say to you to sing the truth but
I think you just don't care. What
Could it hurt to just be honest? How
Can you face the morrow or the now?

Douglas
Posted at: Jul 26, 2010 at 3:38 AM 

Douglas
Posted at: Jul 28, 2010 at 2:51 AM 
This was the sentiment of reviewers, after the premier of a Stravinsky composition resulted in a riot.

Stravinsky's Rite of Spring is shocking, for it sits
Quite poorly on the ear, and gives the listn'er fits.

Douglas
Posted at: Jul 30, 2010 at 5:01 AM 
The week is done and hardly anyone
Has done this exercise, though it's quite fun.

R. Wesley Lovil
Posted at: Jul 31, 2010 at 5:13 AM 
Its summer and the students get to choose, just
How can we think they will do what they must?
The school years a coming and the kids are in terror
And just expecting them to think is a serious error
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