Sincerity in Line Breaks- An Understanding of Rios, and the second quip in “Some Thoughts on the Line”.

I’m consistently trying to find meaning in my lines. I’m somewhat new to writing poetry, even though I’ve been reading it for quite some time. After taking my first poetry analysis class last semester, I can’t help but think that my line breaks are sometimes insincere; I only put them in the poem to complete some sort of “poetic-ness” that I feel is necessary in the poem that I am trying to write.   In Some Thoughts on the Integrity of the Single Line in Poetry”, by Albert Rios, he brings up a point that I feel will help me on this poetic journey, and not just add line breaks because they feel like they are poetic in the moment.

Rios explains that a line break can “present a moment of small melodrama” when it is broken in a certain way that is seen as suspenseful. The major differentiation of this though, is the fact that not all moments need to be melodramatic. Poetry, to me, seems to have a lot at stake. With every moment and narrative presented, there needs to be something pushing the narrative, or the poem won’t go anywhere. But from the statement that Rios made, there is an understanding that melodrama will seem over dramatic if not done correctly. Some lines are meant to drive the narrative, and that may just be it. If someone is on their way to a doctors office, and needs to open the door within a poem, there is no harm in saying:

he then opened the door

The author could however, use the open space as a way to show the door opening, though.

he then opened

the door

But there should be no shame in using the characters actions as a way to begin suspense on the next line.

he then opened the door,

to find a nurse

covered in someone else’s blood.

That is a very dramatic statement in itself, but the lines after the initial reaction serve more purpose being broken than the lines above, showing that the speaker opened the door to find a scene more detailed and gory in a more suspenseful way.


Rios states that “inserting a line break does not add to the poetic nature of the moment.” I think that was the line I needed to read the most. To recognize that lines should be broken because they drive the speaker to do something, feel something, see something. Not just because the line break would look “poetic.” The moment should be sincere and raw, and with unnecessary line breaks, the reader may be pulled from that sincerity for the sake of being poetic.

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