Once again we are proud to have a guestblogger. I will let her present herself by jumping directly into the subject, I can assure you, she is the master of this subject.
De Jackson is a poet, a parent, and a Pro Crastinator of the greatest order. Her poetic life is often hyphen
-ate(d) by the realities of raising two young teenagers, as well as freelance copywriting and editing projects about such important things as public transportation, ministry, and the inevitable mayhem of overwatering your lawn. De writes daily at www.whimsygizmo.wordpress.com.
Today at The Bar, I want us to get enamored with enjambment.
Officially, (according to poetryarchive.org):
“Enjambment is the continuation of a sentence or clause over a line-break. If a poet allows all the sentences of a poem to end in the same place as regular line-
breaks, a kind of deadening can happen in the ear, and in the brain too, as all the thoughts can end up being the same length.”
Simply put, enjambment occurs when a phrase carries over a line-break without a major pause. In French, the word means “straddling.” Imagine a word or phrase straddling across the lines or spacing of the poem. Perfect, right? When you read an enjambed line, it encourages you to keep reading without stopping for a breather, as it were.
Particularly with traditional poems, each line was usually its own thought, and rhymes were often predictable and rhythmic (end-stopped).
Check out these examples from Wiki, for poets who bucked that traditional trend:
The start of The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot, with only lines 4 and 7 end-stopped:
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
These lines from Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale are heavily enjambed:
I am not prone to weeping, as our sex
Commonly are; the want of which vain dew
Perchance shall dry your pities; but I have
That honourable grief lodged here which burns
Worse than tears drown.
Meaning flows as the lines progress, and the reader’s eye is forced to go on to the next sentence. It can also make the reader feel uncomfortable or the poem feel like “flow-of-thought” with a sensation of urgency or disorder. In contrast, the following lines from Romeo and Juliet are completely end-stopped:
A glooming peace this morning with it brings.
The sun for sorrow will not show his head.
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things.
Some shall be pardon’d, and some punishèd.
Endymion by John Keats, lines 2-4:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us…
(Oh! This one is a favorite, for me):
Enjambment may be used in light verse, such as to form a word that rhymes with “orange”, as in this example by Willard Espy, in his poem The Unrhymable Word:
The four eng-
Enjambment is a way to give your lines variable lengths, create audible interest within a poem, and to emphasize certain words, phrases, or even rhyme schemes. A master at enjambment, one of my favorite poets, was E.E. Cummings. Check this one out:
Come Jamb with Us.
Today at The Bar, I invite you to do some jambin’ of your own. If you normally give each line in your poems an endstop (especially with rhyme), today simply allowing your lines to spill where they may (it’s okay, they won’t wander too far!)
If you rarely give lines an endstop, go one step further, and play. You might break a word in half, just for the fun of it. Sprinkle some hyphens in. Bundle up some brackets and see what they want to embrace.
Not feelin’ it yet? Put on your favorite tunes (or your favorite jammies), and see if any of these prompting possibilities help you get started:
1. Why not play with words like
hum -bled, tum -bled, rum -bled.
(See how they bleed, when you give them a hyphen, and a little space of their own?)
2. Or experiment with one or more of these:
be-friend (“be” is actually a lot of fun. What other words that start with “be” can you think of, and torture into meaning something else? be-hold…be-stow…be-fore.)
It’s also a great way to “un” an un word.
-broken thoughts.” – this line now belies its singled-out un.
3. Or give your words a double meaning:
I recently wrote: “trampled, samp
-led by moon.”
See how she’s now “led by moon,” but also “sampled by moon”?
Ooo, and since I just typed it up there:
(Is this something that is singled out, or something led by song? Or maybe both?)
4. You could use parentheses or brackets to emphasize certain words, or letters,
and give us a secret mini poem within your poem.
(b)rake up the chaff,
collect the scattered (s)hells
(See how I hid a little b.s. in there?) 😉
Knowing you amazing creative souls, there are a million ways to have fun with this. So get jambin’, link up here, and let’s start the discussion at The Bar.
(And Björn, thanks for inviting me to help bartend this poetry happy hour!)
Further Reading Jambs:
In our discussions for this prompt, Björn mentioned to me a book by Stephen Fry, The Ode Less Traveled, which further brings up the subject of enjambment. I’m excited to read it.
You can also read more about enjambment here: