THE POET’S CRAFT LESSON–Line breaks
Line breaks are important to free verse poetry. There are no set and fast rules for where to break a line in free verse.
Rules of thumb for line breaks:
- Keep words that belong together on the same line.
- Sometimes your line ends with punctuation, but often the words will run over to the next line.
Break a line when you want to do the following:
- Emphasize a word or phrase–put it at the end of a line or possibly on a line by itself.
- Create suspense or surprise but carrying a word or phrase to the next line
- Create a desired visual effect with the alignment of your lines
- Create a feeling that seems intuitively right to you.
The important thing to keep in mind is that you must have reasons for putting certain words on certain lines. Make sure that when you revise you pay attention to line breaks. A good way to do this is to read the poem aloud carefully. You will hear things you would likely miss otherwise.
- Line Break lesson some great tips to help guide you in making line breaks!
- LINE BREAKS practice
- Line breaks. A PowerPoint guide for making line breaks.
Model Poems: Notice and observe the line breaks
- line breaks intro William Carlos William’s confession/apology poem
- line breaks William Carlos Williams, “To a Poor Old Woman”
- “This is Just to Say,” William Carlos Williams
- Practice with line breaks using Ciradi’s poem, “About the Teeth of Sharks,” and “How to Paint a Donkey,” Naomi Shihab Nye.
- Where would you break these lines and why?
- line_breaks_poem_set how did Gwendolyn Brooks break the lines in “We Real Cool”?
- Example poems–lines and white space
Additional poems for observation of line breaks:
- “Guilt,” Jed Chambers
- “Haunted,” Naomi Shihab Nye
- “In Blackwater Woods,”Mary Oliver”
- “Lies,” by Yevtushenko
- “Kindness,” Naomi Shihab Nye
- “Prayer to the Pacific,” Leslie Marmon Silko
A Process to To Help You With Line Breaks:
Write your piece out like prose first if you need to. Tinker with the words sharpening the images and language. Put a slash mark where you think line breaks might go. Put the words on your document in a form with your line breaks. Rearrange and revise further. Change breaks or lines to fit your larger purpose and effect.
YOU TRY: Write your poem making purposeful, improved line breaks in your poems from here on out. Your poem should be eight lines or more. Choose one of the topics below. Use vivid sensory details that bring out the picture images. Each line should have a strong image. The poem should make sense on a literal/ concrete/physical level, as well as the thematic /symbolic level. Use the poetry toolbox and the Six room poem brainstorming tool to help you get going.
- Write your own confession poem based on William Carlos William’s poem, “This is Just to Say,” This is the one I suggest you do if you feel you’re stuck. Use the same title, but pick your own topic of something to “apologize” for.
- FIVE WORDS you use the five words given here to create a poem. See this Google Presentation of images to help you find words.
- “Charades,” William Stafford. Read the poem here and then use its structure to help you write your own poem.
- Write a poem about a food, see examples of food poems here: “The Olive Tree,” by Frank Gaspar, also “Ode to the Watermelon,” by Pablo Neruda. “Blackberry Eating,“Galway Kinell.
- Write a poem about something you dream of, see an example of Langston Hughes’ poem, “Dream Variations,” and imitae it or build your own idea off of it.
- Write a definition poem, define something, and use these poems as a model to help you: “Leisure,”W. H. Davies, “All the True Vows,” David Whyte, “Her Smile,” Michael L. Newell.
THE POET’S CRAFT LESSON: Shaping the poem–stanzas, sections
Skill focus: Stanza breaks and Structure: overall purpose, line breaks, cutting extra words, words that fit the purpose– specific images and word choices, use of concrete language.
Sections in a Poem. Example: Looking at something from different perspectives: “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” Wallace Stevens
Other Model poems poems with stanzas
Other Model poems with sections:
- “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” Wallace Stevens
- Write a poem about how something in nature transforms. Each stage in the transformation can be a different stanza.
- Write a poem in which you try and understand something you are curious about. See this poem, “Atlantis–A Lost Sonnet,”by Eavan Boland for an example.
- Postcard Poem. Write a poem with sections in which each section shows a different view, like a different post card of the place. For example, show the place in different seasons, from different times of day, from different peoples perspective who are different ages or different occupations. Example student postcard poem: “Postcards from Canada,” a student poem.
- Place Poems. Write about a place you and your family have visited or taken a special trip to. You might write a poem about a sculpture you seen in a city. Look at a photo of the place or a post card if you have one and create a word bank of the place using your five senses to help you get started. Example and additional idea: “Root Cellar“–a poem with some guidelines for you to use. Another example: “The Sacred,” by Stephen Dunn, a poem about a car. A student example: “A Home Amongst Trees.”
- “Silent Loud Eternal,” a poem using sections. Write a poem with sections in which you show three silent things three loud things and three eternal things about your topic. Create a new section for each of the different perspectives (silent, loud, eternal.)
- Thirteen Ways Poems. Write about an object from different perspectives using Wallace Steven’s poem as a model.
Model concrete poems:
- “Bad Hair Day,” John Grandits
- “Silencio,” Eugen Gomringer’s
- “Rain,” Isabelle, a student poem
- Various examples from concrete poetry website
- Concrete Poetry directions
- Place poems with directions. Use a photo to help you! : example: “Chinatown,” Janet Wong
- “Root Cellar,” Theodore Roethke
- “The Sacred,” Stephan Dunn
Lesson: The Poet’s Craft Skill focus: SOUND PATTERNS and REPETITION, METER and RHYTHM
Poetry is sound–other things too, but sound is important to writing a poem–individual sounds and the sound together that create the music on the page. Read words aloud. Listen to sounds. Collecting words can make you more attentive to the sounds of words.
Types of Repetition Repetition can be used with a word, line, phrase, or stanza. Repetition can emphasize an idea, a feeling or a structure.
Meter: is the number of beats in a line. You can feel the beat by where the accented and unaccented syllables fall. The combination set of syllables is called a foot. Here are some examples:
iamb tee TUM
trochee TUM tee
anapest tee tee TUM
dactyl TUM tee tee
spondee TUM TUM
pyrrhic tee tee (this type of pattern is usually followed by a spondee, thus creating a unit of two feet)
Poems that contain repetition for emphasis:
- “Last Night as I Was Sleeping,” Antonio Machado Video version of the poem with Robert Bly speaking is here.
- “Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House”
- repetition_pattern_poem_set includes these poems: “Things Around the Corner,” “Dog Around the Block,” “Harlem Night,” “Little Girl Poem”
- Repetition model: “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” Langston Hughes
- “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” Robert Frost, and a video/ sound version:
- “The Delight Song of Tsoai,” a chant poem
- “Magic Formula to Make an Enemy Peaceful,” Navaho Native American.
Poems with Formal Repetition Patterns:
Use of repetition in music:
- The blues and repetition: Ballads and blues in poetry discussion at the Smithsonian. Example Blues lyrics: example Blues Brothers “Sweet Home Chicago,” Robert A. Johnson, “Ramblin,” T-Bone Walker, “Stormy Monday“
Now You Try:
- Repetition model 2: “Abundant Heart,” Jane Hirshfield, a simple poem with repetition that deepens the poem’s idea.
- Repetition Imitating Emily Dickinson‘s poem, “I’m Nobody.”
- Repetition model: “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” Langston Hughes
- Writing the Blues directions.
- Catalogue poem–poem with repeated word or phrase “Fear,” by Raymond Carver, “The Car,” by Raymond Carver
- Chant directions. Pick something you love, or want to make a wish for.
- Write a pantoum. Directions are here for a pantoum.
- Write a tritina. Directions are here for a tritina.
Lesson 9: The Poet’s Craft: BEGINNINGS ENDINGS and TITLE
- Beginnings & Endings_Example poems_set, “Foghorns,” “Keepsakes.”
- “Encounter,” Czeslaw Milosz
- “Blackberry Eating,” Galway Kinell
- “My Father,” student examples
POETRY READING LESSON: Focus: Noticing Compare and Contrast While Reading Poetry
Mini-Lesson Example Poems:
- “Oh, When I Was in Love With You,” A. E. Houseman. What words define the before state. What words define the after state? Where are the turn lines. What’s the main idea?
- “Every Cat Has a Story,” Naomi Shihab Nye. (Compare and contrast the attributes of the cats described in the poem. What is suggested about the cats through the details given? Make a claim for two to three of the cats described. What lines show these ideas?)
- “What We Might Be, What We Are,” J. Kennedy
- “Sideman,” Paul Muldoon reads his poem.
- “Famous”, Naomi Shihab Nye Is this a poem that shows contrast?
More challenging poems of comparison:
- “Litany,” Billy Collins and here you can listen to a Billy Collins reads his poem.
- “The Lanyard,” Billy Collins reads his poem, and the written version.
Partner work turn and talk:
Compare and contrast the attributes of the main subject of the poem in one of the poems below:
- “When it is Snowing,” Siv Cedering Compare and contrast the sensory details in the poem. What idea about the subject is suggested or inferred?
- “Poppies,” Roy Scheele Compare and contrast the sensory details in the poem. What idea about the subject is suggested or inferred?
- “We Lived Happily During the War,” Ilya Kaminsky (What does the poem look like on the page? Design and white space. Mood. Surface and deep levels, theme. Implied contrast?)
- “Curtains,” Sandra Cisneros (What does the poem look like on the page? Design and white space. Mood. Surface and deep levels, theme. Implied contrast?)
Compare and contrast the way the author talks about the two roads differently. What is happening on the surface level? What is the poem about on the deeper level? What theme or idea about the topic the writer is suggesting?Make a claim. What lines lead you to this idea and show your claim? How does the one writer develop his/her idea about the subject through line breaks, white space, word choice, imagery, sounds of the words, poetic devices, figures of speech, symbols, or other elements?
Now you try writing a contrast poem:
You might try your own idea of a contrast poem using the following suggestions as a starter. Use the poetry toolbox to help you get going.