Ríos and the poetic line

Alberto Ríos’ piece from “A Broken Thing” brought home its most important point to me with its fifth section, which discusses complete written lines as useful measurements of one’s “intellectual unit” or, simply put, “pace”. Recently, the poems I find myself writing tend to have both visible and audible uniformities, such as similar syllable counts between lines, similar line length, and an even number of regular, rectangular stanzas. I often write myself into such formats and then cannot escape them, each subsequent line falling into the overall uniformity with no apparent alternatives.

This is where I feel reading Ríos (specifically “5.”) brought tangible benefits to my writing process. After reading that one paragraph over some three to five times, I’m now comfortable in saying I have the ability to remove myself from my work to examine and tweak the element of pace, an option which had previously only existed in my subconscious, limiting me. Additionally, and on a similar note, I thought Ríos’ musings on the use of “half-steps” and/or longer lines to carry readers differently along were both greatly interesting as well as quite pertinent to my newly-acquired understanding of pace in poetry. I will certainly be experimenting with chopping my lines up further or combining them into single, extended moments whenever possible. Now, in introducing one final thought, I’d like to note that I haven’t spent much time with poetry in my short tenure as a writer, though I am having an excellent time dissecting it. And in finality, Ríos’ piece left me with one impeccable contribution to the dissection process in it’s final lines which I’d like to share now, “Poems are not stories, after all. Poems are the fire that stories explain.”

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