Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Line Length

What effect does line length have on a poem? I write a lot of short poems and usually use short lines in these poems, because very long lines in a short poem can look unbalanced. However in longer poems I think the effect of very short lines can be to make the poem seem choppy, though used well very short lines add drama to a poem or can fix attention on individual words. Longer lines often seem to flow better, adding lyricism or making the rhythm gentler. Here are some examples of different line length in my poetry:


short lines - Young Woman in Black (on my Alter Ego blog)
medium lines - Wild Again

varied line length - Confluence, a Riverscape

I'm sure it will surprise no-one that I couldn't find an example of a poem with long lines! That will be something to work on perhaps.

Line Length for Read Write Poem

11 comments:

PaulS said...

Oh my goodness, what a can of worms this topic always opens up. I usually say that line breaks give the poem structure and are used as a rhythmic device (there is a certain length pause as the eye moves from one line to the next). But a poem with a three pulse (say) meter can have a half pulse added to the end of the line to create a rapid flow through effect and negate the pause, and so on and so. And then you get into the discussion of are linebreaks the only difference between poetry and good prose? Another thoughtprovoker post. Cool.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Yes it does open up a can of worms doesn't it Paul?

Rethabile said...

I couldn't tell you why I break lines where I do if you paid me. It just feels right, and if I don't break them there, it feels forced.

FARfetched said...

I've seen poems that (when properly typeset) make a picture. I guess Rethabile has it right: break the lines where it feels right to break them. If you like short lines, don't force the issue — it won't ring true to either you or your readers.

...deb said...

A pleasure to read your thoughts & examples. I remembered happily reading Confluence before.

...deb said...

PS: I like worms :-)

Princess Haiku said...

I am struck by the image of a riverscape. It is so interesting how those of us who love words continue to be fascinated by them. -And confluence; like that too. :)

Tracey said...

I'm a big fan of short poems myself and when I attempt to write poetry myself I tend towards the shorter line length. I think sometimes in saying something briefly we can end up saying so much. I also think that there is a greater musicality in shorter line lengths...they are much easier to absorb.

Janice Thomson said...

Definitely a thought provoking post Juliet. I find many longer lines contain 'fluff' words just to keep the length which devalues the poem considerably. Short lines generally provide a greater impact yet if not done properly can be choppy and harsh to the ear. I think one learns over time and practice where line breaks are best implemented. I have seen many a famous poem break all the rules devised by we humans LOL

Inland Empire Girl said...

Good topic. In teaching inexperienced writers this week I focused on short lines with strong words... beautiful poems emerged.

this is my patch said...

I must get around to writing poetry, my great nan used to write marvellous verse, just on very everyday events and subjects.