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Micro-Lesson | Jane Wong on Crafting Line Breaks

Posted Tue, 7/07/2015 - 11:42am by  |  Category:

Micro-Lesson1. An example of what we will be reading:
We will read a multitude of different line-break styles from poets such as Jack Spicer, Brenda Shaughnessy, Susan Howe, Richard Hugo, Hannah Sanghee Park, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and more. Take a look at Richard Siken’s line breaks in his poem, “Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out.” Here, Siken plays with the tension between end-stopped lines and enjambment. This is also a great example of “wrapped” lines or the use of spacing in a poem!

2. An example exercise:
We will take a sentence from Tin House’s feature on “The Art of the Sentence” (such as this one from Lorrie Moore) and think about how a sentence can be re-configured into line breaks (indeed, how can we turn prose into poetry?). Each poet will break this sentence in different ways and defend their choices, reflecting on line breaks, stanza breaks, space breaks, etc.

3. A moment of advice:
Line breaks can seem intimidating and mysterious, but they are actually quite fun and inventive. They can change the tone and style of your poem! Always consider how your form relates to your content (what you want to get across). As Charles Olson writes, “Form is never more than an extension of content.” Long lines? Short lines? What kind of feeling are you trying to get across?

4. What to expect from the class: 
A great deal of experimentation with form (trying out different line-break styles based on helpful examples and radical revision)! This class will rejuvenate how you break lines by testing line “tension” and playing with the space of the page.


Jane will teach “Crafting Line Breaks” beginning Aug. 9.