All about punctuation in poetry: last week the Nardvark was all confused about rhythm and metre, and Nerdvark stopped playing WOW long enough to sort him out. Now, surprisingly, Nardvark is confused again. Seems he copied and pasted an excellent essay about a poem, but that wasn’t good enough for his teacher, even though it had awesome literary terms in it like ‘enjambment’ and ‘caesura.’
Nerdvark is pretty dang cranky because he was in the middle of building the most awesome life-sized King-Kong replica in Mine Craft and now he has to help that ninny Nard with his homework AGAIN, but whatevz.
So it seems punctuation can either enhance the rhythm or disrupt it.
End-stopped line: this refers to the placing of a punctuation mark at the end of a line of poetry. The effect – causing the reader to pause briefly before reading the next line. It is generally consistent with the rhythm.
For example, the first two lines from Roald Dahl’s excellent iambic tetrameter poem, “Mike Teevee...”
The most important thing we've learned, (end-stopped)
So far as children are concerned, (end-stopped)
Caesura: this refers to the placing of a punctuation mark in the middle of a line of poetry. The effect – causing the reader to pause briefly in the middle of the line, which breaks up the rhythm and emphasises the word or phrase before and/or after the caesura.
There are a few examples in the next lines of “Mike Teevee...”
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let (caesura)
Them near your television set --
Or better still, just don't install (caesura)
The idiotic thing at all.
Enjambment: this refers to the LACK of punctuation marks at the end of a line of poetry. The effect -- causing the reader to flow into the next line without pausing. This also breaks up the rhythm and allows the poem to read more like normal speech than a song or poem. It can give the effect of an internal monologue, dialogue, or informal prose, and is often used in free verse (non-rhyming, non-rhythmic) poetry.
There are some examples in the next few lines from “Mike Teevee...”
In almost every house we've been,
We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw (enjambment)
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit (enjambment)
Until they're hypnotised by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk (enjambment)
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
To read the rest of “Mike Teevee...” please click here: Roald Dahl is awesome! And as you read, see if you can spot more examples of end-stopped lines, caesura, and enjambment.
Thanks for reading, and if you find my blog helpful, please check out my website: www.kiborrowman.net.
The young woman says, “July is over,
but you don’t have to go on and
on about it. There’s always August.”
And with these three lines, I’m prepared to lay out the difference between using an end-stop or enjambment at the ends of your lines. Want to really impress and flatter a fellow poet at the same time? All you need to do is talk up their wonderful use of enjambment.
Lines 1 and 3 in the above example use an end-stop, which just means that your line finishes its thought (often with the use of punctuation) before moving on to the next line.
Line 2 uses enjambment by running over into line 3. That’s right, enjambment is when you run your idea from one line into another (or many others).
So, why use one over the other? Well, the way you use end-stops and enjambment can affect the speed readers move through your poem. End-stopping tends to slow down the pace, while enjambing picks it up. Personally, I like to mix it up some to achieve certain effects within my poems, especially if I want to emphasize certain ideas or images.
If you haven’t tried using end-stops and enjambment before (or haven’t thought about it since “the good old days” of school), then you might want to try playing around with these tools in your poems. If nothing else, you can now start complimenting other poets’ end-stops and enjambments–and actually know what you’re talking about.