Tag: poetry theory

Pauses in poetry

Rhythmic pauses in poetry

The caesura.
plural caesurae.
It can be used in poetry and prose.
This literary device involves creating a break of a breath within a line where the two separate parts are distinguishable from one another yet intrinsically linked together. The purpose of using a caesura is to create a dramatic pause, which has a strong impact. The pause helps to add an emotional, or theatrical touch to the line and conveys a depth of sentiment in a short phrase.

Everyone speaks, and everyone breathes while speaking. For instance, when you say, “Josh has done his assignment,” you take breath or make a pause before further saying, “But Gideon did not.” Then again you take a little breath and say, “He ran out of ink.” Such pauses come from the natural rhythm of your speech.

Poetry also uses pauses in its lines. It uses them to indicate how a piece should be read, to help rhythm and speed and sense.
A comma, semi colon, full stop, dash, double space ellipse or exclamation mark often in the middle of a line would indicate a caesura.
In metrical poetry the caesura can be used as unstressed syllable.
Even if a caesura is not marked by punctuation poets use the natural breaths and intonations of speech to get the rhythm right. Word choice is extremely important to get the intonation right to speed and slow reading, to heighten, reduce emotion.

How we speak using caesura

Caesura on the whole are not big pauses you are not going to pause for 3 seconds just slightly longer than normal speech transmission.
Like everything in speech caesura come in various degrees longer or shorter. Sometimes a caesura happens as we length the syllables in one word as we speak.

If we look at the lines
‘Death, only death, can break the lasting chains ‘

we say the first death sharply and crisply then the second as deathhh. Say it out loud try it.

Examples of caesura

In the children’s verse, ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence,’ the caesura occurs in the middle of each line:
‘Sing a song of sixpence, ll a pocket full of rye.’
This caesura this pause would remain even without the coma its a natutal space to breathe.

In this piece no visable caesura but some occur naturally through word choice and speech patterns.

‘Do you wonder ll at the why of life

Heed the truth ll kick the doubt.’

Sometimes Caesura occur near the beginning of a line, for emphasis not at a place we would normally pause for breath unless our speech was dramatic or we wanted our listener to really tune in.

For example, in the first line of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s ‘Mother and Poet’, the caesura occurs after the very first word of the poem:
‘Dead ! ll One of them shot by the sea in the east’

Sometimes poets use more than caesura in a line as in
Shakespeares Hamlet.
‘To be, ll or not to be — ll that is the question…’
Here there is a short pause with the coma but a longer more dramatic pause on the dash.

Sometimes near the end of a line.
‘Then there’s a pair of us — ll don’t tell!’

This stanza from John Ashbery’s poem “Our Youth” gives a more modern example of caesura using three different types of punctuation: ellipsis in the first two lines, a period in the third, and finally a comma in the fourth.
Blue hampers . . . || Explosions,
Ice . . . || The ridiculous
Vases of porphyry. || All that our youth
Can’t use, || that it was created for.

How we mark caesura in scansion
If we are analysing poetry we mark a caesura with ll called a double pipe.

Why use caesurae

Writers use caesurae to create variation in the rhythm of a poem, or to emphasize words in the middle of lines that might not otherwise receive attention. Since line breaks in poetry tend to serve as a natural pause regardless of whether the lines are end-stopped with punctuation, the rhythm of poems with lines of equal length can become somewhat monotonous and unvaried without the use of caesurae to create pauses in the middle of lines. The use of caesurae also allows writers to formulate their thoughts and images using more complex sentence structures with different clauses and a freer use of punctuation than is possible without the use of caesurae.
Check out caesurae in poetry and see how they work.
There are technical names for the different types of caesura you can look them up but to me it is important you understand the idea and ways to use pauses in lines. Technical terminology is not important.

Samantha Beardon.

Choosing words for poetry

Poetry Tips
Choosing words for poetry

Poets need to understand words, letters and sounds in ways more intimate than the reader or the writer of prose.
I want to take you on a journey and show you had you should think of words when writing your poetry.

I was given the words PEACH, PAISLEY, PACHABEL, PERIDOT for a challenge.

To me these words fitted into a romance a seduction scene with two players and some music.

So my thinking was Pachabels Cannon in D I don’t know if you have heard it, its a beautiful piece of music and its made up of repeating refrains so I wanted to replicate that in the poetry music.
I needed repetition within the poem and repeats and I also wanted repetition of p and s sounds.

I used alliteration but I also wanted to use euphony letters beginning with p are associated with masculine , power and pride ..s words are associated with secrets, sensuousness so accentuating these sounds will help set the mood of the piece.
I choose words with p and s with the connotations that I wanted and I choose words with p and s in the centre to keep the sounds progressing.

My peacock is a metaphor
Then my word choice
preens gives me the p and s sound …it means devoting time to making oneself look attractive fitting my lover who is a peacock
prances again gives the p and s sounds …it is also making exaggerated movements ..that will get noticed
Then those words are repeated but reversed like the steps of a dance.
He poses and exudes power …and the narrator is interested excited

In the second stanza romance is building so those s sounds come to the fore.
Combined with t which adds a trembling sound.entwined, trailing, atmosphere.
Plus the slithering s tones of slow, sound, speeding, shudder, unison, softly

We continue in stanza 3 with the repetitions but we add he sound of l which can be a sound of lightness and clarity.

So the mood of the poem is built, the emotion heightened.
I formulated a list of potential words, I checked meaning and connotation and picked the words with care.
I tried to continue using my sounds and refrains to echo the refrains in the music.

This poem is also is an extended metaphor.

Now you might not like this poem it may not appeal to you.
But read it aloud feel how the words flow together hear the sounds and try to emulate good word choice in your poems.

Cannon in D

The peridot peacock preens and prances
prances and preens
the feeling of power positively exuding
from the pose
his display raises my pulse
pulse beating in my neck above
of my shawl.

The slow sound of bass notes entwined
with the trailing notes of violins
start to create the atmosphere
for sharing secrets
slow sounds – speeding -twining
like rising pheromones
I shudder as my peach paisley slips
my skin

The peridot peacock
preens and prances
Pachabel adding life and lustre
subtle refrains building building
I smile and power transfers
as I stand and pose and preen
the suspense peaks
we move in unison softly touching
speeding – twining.


with Pachabel.

Samantha Beardon©

How do you choose words for your poetry!
Samantha Beardon

The stresses on words and the rythmn of poetry

​The best way to read poetry is aloud.

The choice of words the amount of syllables and the arrangement of lines will dictate the rhythm

The time taken to say the word will depend on the amount of syllables and where the stress lies.

Punctuation affects rhythmn .

Line stops or the running of two lines into the other…also in speech the normal pause for a breath will change the way we read the lines.
We always use natural stress but learning and accent sometimes changes where the stresses go.

With writing one needs to stick to where the natural stresses are in words unless writing a poem in dialect
Where is the natural stress for you in the following words?

Credit  credit, controversy, controversy British British ??
Sometimes the stress will change according to the meaning or nature of the word.

Some times circumstances will change circumstances
For example if you took the Dr Seuss Poem  Green Eggs and Ham. You might read it so the stresses go like this:
i DO not EAT green EGGS and HAM

If you placed the stresses elsewhere, it might change the meaning of the poem:

I do NOT eat GREEN eggs AND ham.
This might suggest that the character would eat them separately but not together and it would not go with the rest of the poem. If you translated this stress change into sound it might go like this

I do NOT eat GREEN eggs AND ham.

DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da.
In terms of inflection in the first example the line ends on a rising tone in the second on a lowering tone.
American English and British English often put different stresses on words and although there is some commonality there are also distinct differences.
It needs some thought if writing for an international audience. Does it matter ?

What do you think?



An imaginative awareness  of experience expressed through meaning  ,rhythmn and language choices to create an emotional experience.

Meaning and emotion through words

Poetry is innate because of the way we learn language which is through sound and repetition before we can read or write…

Its innate because if the natural rythms within our body. 

Poetry greek origin … Closely tied to those roots of our language. 

Poetry is designed to be read out loud

In speech we move air through through muscular activity speech is a whole body experience ….so if you read aloud you read and interprete the words,convert to sounds

So when we express ourselves verbally and we want to create a message we use sounds that we vary in pitch and tone…We emphasise whole words or part of words we also use body language to get our meaning across. 

Poetry is written but is meant to be read aloud…it uses words in a concentrated fashion to enhance and highlight the rhythmns of speech and meaning. 

When reading poetry the brain accesses knowledge of language knowledge of sound and your previous experiences of sensations and feelings. In prose and stories choice of language is important but is used differently to poetry. In a story you will get an ebb and flow of language in  poetry that ebb and flow needs to be managed. In a story you need to move the story on in poetry you want your message to be savoured.