“The Economy of the Line” by Rachel Zucker

I was interested in the anecdote told in “The Economy of the Line” by Rachel Zucker in A Broken Thing. The author explains how they were willing to pay for a different trim size to preserve how they formatted and broke the poem’s lines, describing,  “ In the end though, I paid. I paid because I felt that the length and integrity of my lines were inextricable from the content and language of the poems”(255). While on one hand I understand that the line is very important to the poem, on the other it’s difficult for me to fully understand, because whenever I edit a poem I change up the lineation drastically. I’m not sure I have any lineation in my poems that I know so certainly that it is vital to the poem. Furthermore, this idea was really fascinating to me because it showed that the line and choices about the line were not just important in how readers perceived the author’s work, but also important as a very immediate, practical concern, as impacting finances. So, this raised the question, are there any aspects of the poems I’ve written for class that I would absolutely not change? Or do all of my poems need a lot more work before I can be that certain in how I think they need to look or sound? At this point, I think I would need to think about the poems I’ve written in a lot more depth to figure it out, or feel so certain in my poetic choices. But there are definitely certain lines or line breaks in poems I wrote for class so far that I know I would be sad to cut and feel like deleting them would took away from the poem. Reading that story made me admire the author, for having written poems that they knew so well that they would go out of their way to ensure their poems were exactly as they wanted them, and the best poems they could be.

Did anyone else have any opinions on this? Do you have aspects of your poems that you change your plans and pay to have published in that way? Or do you think it would be better to edit your poem to work in another way?

“Captivated Syllabics” by Robyn Schiff

When reading “Captivated by Syllabics” by Robyn Schiff in A Broken Thing, I really thought about the role of syllables in poetry in a totally new way. Although I knew sometimes poets payed attention to the specific use syllables in poetry, I had never heard it put into words in an interesting and comprehendible way. Furthermore, I found Schiff’s discussion of the line itself interesting, from the very first paragraph. Schiff describes, “All lines flicker between two lives; now an isolated unit, now a contiguous part of a sentence and stanza and poem. Lines move like time moves, both in obtained moments, and boundlessly toward eternity. Maybe writing in lines fulfills our deepest and terribly contrary wish both to stop and to keep going at the same time. To hold captive, to be captivated, and also to let go and to be released” (215). This quote, I found, spoke to the way the line is both a statement all by itself, but is also a part of a whole. It’s one moment, but it also compels the reader to keep reading and moving through the poem. So, when someone reads a line, they might both feel like they want to stop at a certain line, but when they do that there is always the need to keep reading to find what comes next. Like Schiff says, the line is fascinating because of its contradictions.

Has anyone else written or read a poem where the use of syllables or the line in general was vital to the poem, or interesting,  or stood out to them in some way?

“White Days” by Priscilla Becker

The poem “White Days” by Priscilla Becker in the reader was fascinating to me. This is because while reading it, I found myself drawn to the sounds of the words, specifically the “s” sound. Reading through the first time, I paid so much attention to the sounds of the words that I didn’t even take in their meaning and had no idea what I had read! “S” is a common letter in words, but still how it was repeated so often in the poem really added to the sound of the poetry, I thought. The lines, “suffocate lowers like snowy exhaust”, (6-7) “the walls sequestered” (19), and “smell parsnip and staple” (27-28) show the use of sound in the poem. In each the “s” sounds appear at different parts of the line and in different parts of the individual words. It almost made it a the repetition of the “s” sound a surprise. There was also repetition of other sounds, such as “indisputable, unarguable” (2-3) and “pin heads, shivering paper ridges”(30-31). Really, overall in this poem I was so engrossed with the word choice and sounds that the meaning didn’t even seem important. Did anyone else have an opinion of this poem?

Characters in Poetry

I was really interested by the poem in the reader for last week’s class by Alena Hairston. It doesn’t have the format I expect from poetry. At first, I thought it was more like a prose poem. But as I read, I realized that it was a dialogue between two characters, each with their own distinct way of speaking through the format of the words on the page. The first character used no spaces, separating sentences or ideas with /. It was a father, talking to his daughter, as specified in the very first line. The father also repeated phrases over and over again. For instance, he starts the poem with, “youaremydaughter/youhaveaduty/youwillnotdisgraceme”. Overall, the style gave the effect that the father is scolding his daughter, speaking quickly, and without stopping to listen to her or to consider what he is saying. The second character, the daughter, uses lots of space in the sentences, and uses short, disconnected phrases. This was especially important I thought because it seemed like the daughter was trying to interrupt her father, but was not succeeding. She said, “but poppa       we are   in love      but poppa     i love him   pop but please poppa.” It is like she was speaking over the father, trying to get him to listen to her. Through the format of the poem, the reader can get a sense of what the characters are like without the poem having to directly say it with words. Through what each character says and the format, the reader can figure out their own interpretation. I thought that was fascinating, that so much information on the characters could come through in poetry without the author having to write out what each character was thinking or doing.

Comparing Poetry and Music

One thing that interests me is the discussions of white space in poetry during class. For instance, we have read several poems and discussed the large amounts of space in between words, and what effect that creates. I thought it was fascinating how having empty space can put more emphasis or less emphasis on a word or a phrase. It was something that I hadn’t given much thought while writing poetry before. Furthermore, it reminded me to also think about how the poem looks, visually, because I think that also can say something. Is the poem full of space, with the words all separated? Or are all the words crunched together? It also made me think of rests in music. When playing a piece or a song, musicians often be sure to give the rests their full value. If they change the rest’s value, they most likely have a specific justification and know exactly why they are doing it. Just because there is no sound there, doesn’t mean that it’s not important to the piece. Skipping over rests or cutting them short can have a big impact, for instance it could throw off the rhythm or get rid of the breathing space that rest gave, even though it doesn’t seem like rests would be important. In the same way, I think line breaks and space work the same way in poems. They are important even though there are no words. It should be well thought out what the tone that the big spaces between words in the poem gives. Also it can give the poem very different feelings, depending on how it is set up. Even though there aren’t any words, the empty space in poems is still significant, and shouldn’t be ignored.

English 301: Reading by Albert Rios

I found section 8 in the reading for class by Albert Ríos discussing how the line is like furniture that makes up a room the most interesting. To me, that implied that one way to think about a line is as a complete idea in itself, like an entire piece of furniture. However, in addition to that, a line also has a function in the poem, like a stove has a specific reason to be in the kitchen. So, a line could be an entire sentence, or just a part that has a certain idea, so long as it forms a complete thought or image. I also thought it implied that each line should be important to the poem, and therefore would have some crucial idea for the rest of the poem. Whether it’s an interesting metaphor related to the poem’s topic, or information needed for the poem to make sense, each line contributes to making the poem make sense all together, even if different lines have different approaches to do so.

Although I don’t think either of those ideas from the reading have to always be true for every poem, I thought they were good ideas to use in future poems I write. Overall, I enjoyed how the passage spoke about ways for the line to function in the poem as a whole. Like a piece of furniture compliments a room, one way to think about a line would be for it to be a complete thought itself, but also help make up the entire room. It made me think that I should look over my poems for this class and look carefully at every single line and see what that line does. Is each line important to the poem? Why is that? I think often, I have lines in poems that don’t follow the ideas Albert Ríos discussed in the reading. Often, lines are either not interesting on their own, or aren’t very important to the poem overall. So, if I find a line that isn’t, maybe then I should consider it so it’s more like an entire piece of furniture, or an entire thought. Overall, the passage made me conclude that a line should be compelling by itself, as well as being a part of the poem.