Lines and Line Breaks

The Poetic Structure
How to Craft Your Modern Epic
The Odyssey
English 10H
What is a Stanza?
• Definition:
–Two or more lines of poetry that
together form one of the divisions of
a poem. The stanzas of a poem are
usually of the same length and
follow the same pattern of meter
and rhyme.
• Poems are made
up of linessometimes as few
as one or two or as
many as several
• Lines do NOT
equal sentences.
Most often, they do
not end in
Lines Continued
• While reading poetry out loud, you will
notice that lines in many poems are more
or less equal to a breath
• There is a time and a place for different
line lengths. They do not need to always
be very short and choppy or conversely
extremely long and shaped like a story.
Long Lines- When to use them
• If you have a LOT
of material to
include and you
want a GRAND
effect, you may
want long lines.
These tend to flow
very nicely but are
not as dramatic.
Example- Long Lines
• Walt Whitman’s “Mannahatta”
Now I see what there is in a name, a word, liquid, sane, unruly, musical, self-sufficient;
I see that the word of my city is that word up there,
Because I see that word nested in nests of water-bays, superb, with tall and wonderful spires,
Rich, hemm’d thick all around with sailships and steamships—an island sixteen miles long, solid-founded
The lines barely fit because they are so lengthy.
He needs all of this space to describe all of the
details- sights and sounds he experienced in
New York.
Shorter Lines- When to Use
• Using shorter lines draws more close
attention to individual things, ideas,
words, and phrases. Everything stands
out clearly and there is less clutter.
• There is more “breathing room” and
pausing throughout the poem
Short Lines- Example
• Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Song of Nature”
Mine are the night and the morning,
The pits of air, the gulf of space,
The sportive sun, the gibbous moon,
The innumerable days.
Short, restrained, clear and vivid images
• The same poem with long lines:
Mine are the night and the morning, The pits
of air, the gulf of space, The sportive sun, the
gibbous moon, The innumerable days.
Break your lines carefully!
• A line break is exactly what it sounds like:
It is where you end the line of poetry.
• The big question: Where should you break
a line of poetry:
- Read the line out loud and end it where
the breath ends naturally (not the
Remember, epics were meant to be
performed OUT LOUD. Consider this as
you write.
Line Breaks Continued
• There is no
about breaking
lines but it is
important to think
about the tone and
mood of your
poem- This will
influence how you
break you lines.
• Occurs when there is no punctuation at
the end of the line. It has nothing to do
with when the sentence actually ends. If
there is no punctuation you read lines with
flow: William Blake:
Abstinence sows sand all over
The ruddy limbs & flaming hair
But desire gratified
Plants fruits of life and beauty there
End-Stopped Lines.
• Unlike enjambment, end-stopped lines
have punctuation at the end of a line. You
pause when you read this. Here is an
example of both enjambment and end
stopped lines:
• The surroundings of home, centers
neighborhoods which I see for years.
Do not pause at the end of the first line.
Why does it matter?
• The way you
break up your
poem has a
strong impact on
the flow, rhythm,
pace and
integrity of your
• In order to
demonstrate new
speakers, you may
choose to start a new
stanza each time a
new speaker begins
his speech. You do
not need quotation
marks to denote
these shifts in
Meter and Rhyme
• Remember, this is not
a traditional sonnet or
tightly “metered”
poetic form. Use
rhyme sparingly to
emphasize elements
or add to the rhythm
of the narrative. You
have some freedom
in your use of