My brain thinks in pictures.
Mostly big ones.
This makes poetry hard when we’re dealing with small units like the line, punctuation, a space, a breath.
I was having a phone conversation about music yesterday in which the person I was talking to referred to albums as a “collection,” which I’ve heard many times before, but it hit me right then that a poem, too, resembles an album: a poem is a collection of lines. Just as each song in an album is it’s own entity, singing its own melodies and showcasing it’s own rhythm, tone, and meaning, each line in a poem has its own agency and independence within a poem. It gets interesting to think of many different independent lines or songs working together as a collective whole.
I admit that I generally think more often about the collective whole: the meaning of a poem or the narrative flow of a poem and how to convey certain things to a reader either directly or indirectly. Only recently have I discovered the independence that lies within a poem and how lines can be listened to over and over again on their own, shuffled with other lines, or even stolen and put in a “playlist” with other lines by other poets. What I once thought was only pure interdependence actually turned out to be a network of independent things linked together, or broken in a way that they may fit together.
This is not new information to many of us, but by putting an analogy with what we are learning about lines, I became a bit more flexible in how I think about poetry and the line.
For any of the rest of you right-brained “big picture” type folks, what has helped you understand the line in poetry specifically? What has helped you to focus on the unit rather than the whole in our discussions of the weight each line holds?