The Tribune in the Woods on prose versus versus. Responding to Laura Carter on lines & line-breaks.

My two cents: a line-break is a break in the sentence flow. If you break the line where there is no natural pause in the sentence, you emphasize the break: you juxtapose the "natural", ordinary flow of a sentence with the artifice of the poem.

This may be a way to heighten the intensity, by creating kind of a special, demarcated space. But "unnatural" breaks, after a while - especially if the actual sentences are not all that interesting - become simply annoying, or emphatically boring.

I usually like to "work with" the line-break. I use it to try to give more music (rhythm) to the sentence. I use odd or "unnatural" line-breaks rarely, & in conjunction with a particular meaning the sentence is conveying. What I like about line-breaks is that in addition to adding rhythm to the sentence with a pause, they also fortify the rhythmic unity of the individual lines. So these 2 things - the unity of the line & the rhythm of the break - work together.

But my aim & my practice is to get to the point where I don't have to think about this stuff. Because I'm really more interested in the overall momentum, and in the coalescence of a larger content or argument as a whole. Make it natural, make it flow. Then the real original content & diction will appear, almost magically, on its own.

This is probably the most conventional approach to these issues. But perhaps there's some advantage to developing a kind of natural, thoughtless practice, one which fits your own thoughtless nature. Natural, anyway, for thoughtless people like me. Painstaking poets will take a more painstaking approach.

p.s. this issue is complicated by the fact that a "natural" line-length does not always correspond with a "natural"-sounding break. This is where rhyme comes in very handy. Rhyme adds a 3rd layer of interest, like from a new direction, to (1) rhythmic unity of line and (2) rhythmic interest of the break. Rhyme is like the mortar used by masons, except you have to imagine a mason who erects some fantastic structure which follows the inclination of the mortar rather than the structure of the bricks.

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