Today it’s time to talk about silence in poetry. The special silence filled with rhythm and meaning. The caesura. A pause to breathe, to accentuate the meaning. Silence and pauses are as crucial to poetry as any other device such as rhythm or rhymes. Or to quote a poem of my own:
As light needs darkness
a poem lacking silence is:
a wound without a body
an empty glass of water, and
a rose that blooms in darkness.
I know exactly when I read this where to stay silent, but is it obvious in the way it’s written?
Caesuras have been used for a very long time in poetry, see for example the structure of old Anglo Saxon poetry, where a mid-line pause was needed for the rhythm (marked by alliteration). You can also find it in traditional iambic poetry to break the drumbeat monotony.
The sign for the caesura is a double bar ||, but it has seldom been used in real text.
In prose we normally use punctuation to mark the pause, and we have so many great signs to use to mark a pause before we come to a full stop (.): comma (,) semicolon (;) slash (/) dash or em-dash (- — ). One of my favorite punctuation mark is the ellipsis … signifying that silence when we are leaving something out. Then of course we have questions (?) and exclamations (!).
All these can be used in poetry, though many of you prefer to exclude them because in poetry we also have access to the line breaks and formatting to indicate where silence is needed. A comment here that can help you is how to do a line break vs doing a carriage return (CR) on a computer, this is important since CR usually gives you a new paragraph and not just a new line. A line break is often done by pressing Shift-CR, and will remove that extra space you get in some programs.
Today I want you to focus your writing these pauses. Make them visible. Read the text and listen to where pauses fall naturally, mark them and make them visible in the way that suits you best.
You can either take an old or new poem of yours and mark the pauses with double bars or you can write a new own poem and focus on punctuation to mark the pauses. I think it would be great if you added some notes in your post or a comment below on how you think about silence and caesurae should be best expressed.
I would love if you could add a reading of your poem too.
When you are ready link it up below, visit and enjoy the other poem. Try to tell the writer what you feel, how the silence works for you. Please comment as much as you can. Enjoy. Have fun.