Now, on to Chapter 33 and the discussion of line breaks. I was so glad to see this chapter because line breaks is one of the things I most struggle with in my poems. I felt a bit better when she said she thought ten poet laureates would break a poem in ten different ways. But of course, being a rule follower, I wanted to know the RIGHT way to do it. But I think the message here is there is no right or wrong way, there is only the way of the individual poet based on what they want the reader to feel, to take away, as they read the poem. Some line breaks will be a leisurely stroll and some will feel like you’re on a runaway train.

The line breaks that confuse me most of all are the ones that break mid-idea and leave me hanging. I keep studying the poem to see if I can discover the answer to why it breaks a certain way but usually I can’t. This is part of what makes me feel dumb about poetry because I want to understand that which often can’t be understood but only felt. I like the idea she gives that you want to end the line on the word you want the reader to linger on a bit longer.

I think line breaks will always be hard for me until I learn to trust myself as a poet.

I chose the first exercise she listed. She took the poem Lake and Maple by Jane Hirshfield and wrote it in paragraph form and then suggested that we try putting in the line breaks. I haven’t read that poem before so it is all new to me. I’ll go looking for a copy after I play with my own line breaks with it (in the comments.)