The Craft of the Poetic Line
July 25, 2016
Poetry is often distinguished by lineation, in which lines may be short or
long, and may end far before they run out of “real estate”- even though
the sentence of which they are a part has not yet ended. Lineation is a
means by which a poet can complicate the meaning of a poem, push against
or emphasize its syntactic elements. Lineation offers opportunities to
surprise the reader by shift in syntax, as well as to give the reader a
sense of pacing through the poem, to emphasize different sonic elements,
and to help the reader pay attention to the different ways a single phrase
can be read. Some questions to ask about the poetic line include:
How does the choice of a longer or shorter line affect the pacing of a
What is the effect of line that coincides with sentence syntax (what James
Longenbach calls a “parsing line”) vs. a phrase broken across one or more
What happens in a poem when the lines shift between “parsing lines” and
syntactically fragmentary ones?
How does a line’s end affect the adjacent lines? And how does this choice affect the poem itself?
How does the choice of where to end a line affect the resonance within the
What happens when poet repeats a phrase in a poem, but places it in a
different part of the line each time?
What happens when the line becomes very long, a la Ginsberg or Whitman?
And how can we think about the line when we encounter prose poetry?
Here are some resources that can be used as a starting point in thinking
about the poetic line:
The Academy of American Poets offers several excellent essays
about the poetic line:
The Poetry Foundation also offers some interesting reading, including “Learning the Line” by Rebecca Hazelton:
Tom Holmes, editor of Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, and Prose,
has this article on lineation on his poetry and wine blog:
The poetry blog Structure and Style by Rebecca Hazelwood and
Savannah Sipple has this post:
And a number of books on the subject are also available, including
James Longenbach’s The Art of the Poetic Line (thank you, Cheney
Crow, for this suggestion!)
A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line (Emily Rosco and Anton Vander
Lyric vs. Narrative Poetry
April 11, 2016
What distinguishes lyric from narrative poetry? Can narrative be found in
lyric poetry, and vice-versa?
A quick search reveals a number of articles / blog posts that touch on the
distinctions between lyric and narrative. Here are a few:
The PDF of poems for this session can be found here.
Metaphor and Simile
January 11, 2016
How do metaphor and simile work? Every metaphor or simile can
be thought of as having two parts: the tenor (the subject of the metaphor
or simile) and the vehicle (the thing to which the subject is compared).
How do metaphor and simile shed new light on the tenor? What happens to a
poem when the tenor and vehicle are very similar? What happens when they
are very different?
Some resources about metaphor and simile:
(the section on Emily Dickinson is especially apt)
Margaret H. Freeman: Poetry and the Scope of Metaphor: Toward a Cognitive
Theory of Literature:
The PDF from our craft discussion is here.
The Craft of the “Turn”
October 12, 2015
The turn is a change of direction within a poem that opens a new
perspective. A poem’s turn, which is known in the world of sonnets as a
volta, offers complexity and can transform the experience of the reader.
Some excellent articles on the subject may be found here:
How is a poem’s turn signaled? How does the poem’s turn affect its
emotional tone? Formal poetry, such as the haiku and sonnet, often locate
the turn at a particular place in the form; where do we find the turn in
Here is a PDF of the poems discussed during this craft session.
The Craft of Persona Poems
July 13, 2015
What makes a persona poem ‘come alive?’ How do diction and vocabulary
contribute to a persona poem’s sense of place and time? How does the
author achieve an authentic voice in persona?
A definition of persona poems and a few examples can be
found at http://www.poetryarchive.org/glossary/persona
Here are the persona poems discussed during this craft session.