1. thirdwind

    thirdwind Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Jul 17, 2008
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    Poetry Line Breaks

    Discussion in 'Research' started by thirdwind, Oct 13, 2009.

    I haven't studied much poetry which is why I'm asking this question to those of who write and/or read poetry. I usually don't understand why poets break their lines in unrhymed poetry when they do. The only reasons I can think of are to emphasize the last word on that line or to preserve some sort of meter.

    For those of you who write poetry, how do you determine when to add a line break? Do you use some kind of rule or formula (as in following meter)? Do you follow your instinct? Or do you add line breaks arbitrarily and hope for the best?

    I have googled this and gotten various answers, but I'm more interested in seeing what people here have to say.
  2. arron89

    arron89 Banned

    Oct 10, 2008
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    I was taught that the only real way to distinguish poetry from prose is that in poetry authors control where the line ends. Which I agree with; you can try to define poetry in terms of its content and structure but it will always be proven wrong, there is always an exception to every definition of poetry except that one.

    So, its always seemed to me that line breaks in free verse poetry are used to emphasise ideas, isolate ideas, create patterns...basically just used artistically, for want of a better word. Obvously if you are writing in a particular mode or form, there will be conventions and rules that may dictate where a line ends, so in those cases line breaks could be seen as arbitrary (though necessary), but I don't think a (good :p) poet would ever break a line in free verse for arbitrary reasons.
  3. Lmc71775

    Lmc71775 Active Member

    Sep 8, 2009
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    I always thought it was the way the lines sound
    To me, at least. IMO. When the line sound cut off
    weak. Begins the next line. You can write a beautiful
    poem just by the way the words like and how they
    feel you to. This is only one peron's opinion though, C?

    but I don't think a (good :p) poet would ever break a line in free verse for arbitrary reasons.

    I don't agree with this is necessarily true (in my case)

    Arbitrary (hada look it U…p) Based on a whim right? I believe in some arbitrary decisions. Some people move from abstract to the art itself. Then again, my thoughts only. Take or toss. I am still Barney, the Purple thesearous (isn't that a dinosaur?)
  4. Rei

    Rei Contributor Contributor

    Aug 2, 2008
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    There are a lot of reasons for those decisions, and there really are no rules, as far as I know, as long as it reads well.
  5. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
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    Coquille, Oregon
    i'm a full time poet and i mentor/teach many aspiring ones, so am giving you my best 'inside' answer... there's no rule on where to insert line breaks in a poem... the reasons you give are only two of many... another is for the sense of the content, just as you would end a sentence, or a paragraph, in prose... yet another is just for how it looks, structure-wise... and, as lmc notes, how it sounds and 'feels' when read...

    i decide based on the factors listed above, not by any rule or formula... and yes, i usually know instinctively, where to place one, since i've been writing poetry for over half a century, now... or, as i see it, the poem itself lets me know where it needs a break...

    never!... as poetry is the most refined form of the writer's art, it takes both skill and talent in large amounts, to turn out high quality works... the finished product of a seasoned poet's labors will be the result of careful attention to every aspect, every single word, not any arbitrary whim...

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