Lines in poetry and found poems! 

Poetry is made up of lines and stanzas….in prose it would be sentences and paragraphs.
So what is the difference between the poetry and prose variations? Don’t they do the same job? ….Well not exactly 
The line is a unit of words typically written to have a specific effect…such as a line break …a pause, a rhythmn, a highlight, a shape.

Lines come in different lengths and those lengths can add different meanings, emotions and rhythmn to the poem.

The line in a poem is not usually the width of the paper as in prose, but ends where the poet wants it to.

The use of the lines and the white space around them is very much part of the poetic effect. 

So when reading a poem it is good to look at where the line breaks are, consider what meanings the white space may have on the overall meaning of the poem. 

Lines tend to be grouped together to form verses or stanzas and this will vary depending on the poetic form the poet is following.
Line breaks in poetry are not necessarily punctuated so can act like a rest in music

The type if effects that can be produced by a line break are:

• Very short lines – doubt, suspense, tension • Irregular lines – sudden rhythm conveys anger or indifference • Short sentences – nervous energy • Short lines and broken syntax — forces reader to pay attention and focus on fragments • Harsh lines – dramatize meaning • Rough lines – physical effect • Enjambment – ending a line in the middle of a thought forces the reader to pay attention to that last word in the line because it is important to the theme. 
So lines and line breaks are a powerful tool for the poet. 
When reading a poem its important to honour the line breaks they are put there for a reason.

Thinking of line breaks it is interesting to take a piece of prose and turn it into what is called a Found poem. So chop the prose up into smaller lines trying to add dramatic impact, rythmn, highlight the tension etc.
Here is an example. 
 Extract from Gone Girl.
I began running, bellowing her name. Through the kitchen, where a kettle was burning, down to the basement, where the guest room stood empty, and then out the back door. I pounded across our yard onto the slender boat deck leading out over the river. I peeked over the side to see if she was in our rowboat, where I had found her one day, tethered to the dock, rocking in the water, her face to the sun, eyes closed, and as I’d peered down into the dazzling reflections of the river, at her beautiful, still face, she’d suddenly opened her blue eyes and said nothing to me, and I’d said nothing back and gone into the house alone. ‘Amy!’ She wasn’t on the water, she wasn’t in the house. Amy was not there. Amy was gone.

Found Poem.
I began running, 


             her name. 

Through the kitchen,

 where a kettle

          was burning, 

down to the basement, where

 the guest room 

stood empty, and 

     then out 

the back door.

 I pounded across

      our yard onto

 the slender 

    boat deck

 leading out 

over the river.




 the side

 to see 

if she was in our

Where I had

found her

    one day,


to the dock,


in the 


 her face to the sun, 

            eyes closed, and 

as I’d peered down 


the dazzling reflections 

of the river.
 At her beautiful, 

still face,





          blue eyes

 and said


 to me, and

 I’d said 



 and gone 

into the house alone.


    She wasn’t 

          on the water, 

she wasn’t

    in the house. 

Amy was

            not there. 



Would you have arranged that differently? Tell me how you see the lines. 

What do you think of the effects? 

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