Writing Poetry Tips, Part Three: The Found Poem and the Enjambed Line


Poetry isn’t just about the words you use. It’s also about how the words sound, look and feel. One of the areas where young and inexperienced poets often struggle is with word placement; especially among those poets who are opting against traditional iambic pentameter, dimeter, trimeter, etc. Like all poetry, free form poetry is an art form, but, more than other poems, the placement of the words is of utmost importance.

Source
Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg | Source

Line Breaks


A line break is where the line breaks and the next line begins. It is sometimes use to change the meaning of a word or poem, to create suspense, to surprise the reader, or to affect or keep the rhythm of a poem. (As a brief aside, read the poem the way it's written. It was written that way for a reason and by breezing through it, you lose some effect and meaning of the poem.) There are many types of line breaks but, in free verse, the one’s you are going to see the most are endstopped lines and enjambed lines. Endstopped lines are those lines which end with traditional punctuation: periods, commas, semi colons, and even colons and dashes. An enjambed line is a line where the line ends in an unexpected place, sometimes with punctuation, but usually without. This is the type of line break that takes the most practice to master and revision to perfect.

My advice in writing a poem that you intend to turn into free verse or free form poetry is to write the poem in prose (paragraph) format and then begin to cut the lines. This enables you to write without concern about the line breaks, enjambed or endstopped. Read them out loud, cut them again, read them out loud, cut them again. Continue the process until the poem sounds the way you want it to sound. If the breaks sound choppy or unnatural and don’t give off the vibe or tone you want, consider revising them. Also, find a friend, critic, teacher and/or fellow poet and have them read your poem to you, with the line breaks as you've written them. Hearing your poem from someone else’s mouth will tell you if the tone you are trying to set as a poet has been set or if you need to go back and revise some more.

Source

Found Poems


Found Poems are a great way to practice line breaks. A found poem is a poem where the text was written by another author but the form and structure of that poem is changed to make text into a poem. No words or punctuation are changed. The copyright issues associated with found poems vary but, I believe it falls under the same category as parody and is therefore legal. What follows is the paragraph from an article in History Channel Magazine that I read recently that had a lot of strong, descriptive, good looking words that I thought would make a great poem:

Engine Company 72, arriving from their house on West 12th Street seven blocks to the north, had to maneuver their horse drawn engines around the bodies that continued to hit the streets with sickening thumps. Using horse blankets as life nets, firemen and police officers yelled to the girls to aim for them, but as groups of women jumped together the blankets split in two under their weight and velocity. Worse, neither the fire engines' water jets nor their serial ladders could reach beyond the seventh floor of the building.


This is a pretty grizzly scene about a tragic event (the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 1911). But, as you’ll see below, it revises nicely into a poem. I wrote two of them. The first is mostly endstopped and lightly enjambed. The second is heavily enjambed. Notice how each one is read differently and has different meaning. Notice how the meaning of the words is represented physically in the way they’re laid out on the page (Especially notice the the word AROUND in poem two.). Notice the varying line lengths and think about how they may add to the poems meaning as well. Also notice how no wording or punctuation was changed, only the placement of the words:

1. (Mostly endstopped, lightly enjambed)


Engine Company 72,
arriving from their house on West 12th Street seven blocks to the north,
had to maneuver their horse drawn engines
around the bodies that continued to hit the streets with sickening thumps.
Using horse blankets as life nets,
firemen and police officers yelled to the girls to aim for them,
but as groups of women jumped together the blankets split in two
under their weight and velocity. Worse,
neither the fire engines' water jets nor their serial ladders could reach beyond
the seventh floor of the building.

2. (Heavily enjmabed, very few endstops)


Engine Company
72, arriving from their house on
West 12th Street seven
blocks to the north,
had to maneuver
their horse drawn engines
around
the bodies that continued to hit the streets with
sickening thumps.
Using horse blankets
as life nets,
firemen and police officers yelled to the girls
to aim for them,
but as groups of women jumped
together
the blankets split
in two
under their weight and velocity. Worse,
neither the fire
engines' water jets nor their serial ladders could reach beyond
the seventh
floor of the building.

The gruesome article now reads like a free form poem! Here’s others I have written several others and have included three of them below, though with these, I will not be showing the originals, only the "poetic" versions. I took one from a newspaper article, one from a job description and one from a Wikipedia article:

I found something!
I found something! | Source


Found Poem : Occupy

Hundreds of protesters

thronged intersections

around

the financial district, an area

of narrow,

crooked streets running

between stately sandstone

buildings housing

banks, brokerage

houses and the New York Stock Exchange.


Found Poem: Director

When evaluating potential

candidates the company

may exercise discretion

in waiving educational

or other requirements

if it is deemed

that the individual’s

experience makes

them uniquely qualified for

the Branch Director

position.​


Found Poem: Photosynthesis

Carbon dioxide is converted

into sugars

in a process called

carbon fixation. Carbon fixation

is a redox reaction, so

photosynthesis needs to supply

both a source

of energy to drive

this process, and

the electrons needed to convert

carbon dioxide into a carbohydrate,

which is a reduction reaction.

In general outline, photosynthesis

is the opposite of cellular

respiration, where glucose and other

compounds are oxidized to

produce carbon

dioxide,

water, and

release chemical energy. However,

the two processes take place through

a different sequence

of chemical

reactions and

in different cellular compartments.


These are just a few examples. Practice your line breaks with found poems and come up with some fun new poems that you can call your own. I look forward to seeing what creations you have to share!


Thanks for Reading.

PDXKaraokeGuy, also known as Justin W. Price, is an author with Sweatshoppe Publications, which will soon re-release his poetry collection, Digging to China. Additionally, the managing editor at eFiction horror and The New Bridge online newspaper.. Husband to Andrea, father to two dogs. writer.poet.baseball fan. tattooed. He is am amateur theologian with a rabid sweet tooth. He resides in a suburb of Portland, Oregon.He has a poetry book available for Amazon Kindle, and also maintains a blog, FirstBlog. His work has been featured in the Crisis Chronicles, efiction Magazine, The Hellroaring Review, the Bellwether Review, eFiction Humor, and the Rusty Nail. Please visit his profile page for more information. Thanks!

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Comments 28 comments

PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 3 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Rebecca, found poems are a lot of fun though i imagine you likely run into copyright issues with them on occasion. Let me know if you end up experimenting with the form. I'd be happy to link it here!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

Thanks for sharing this! I like the idea of writing prose first and then going for the free verse. The found poem idea is fascinating! I have never heard of it, I'll bet it is fun. I wonder how a political piece would go over these days, lol!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Savanah. I'm glad you found this useful!


savanahl profile image

savanahl 4 years ago

Great information. I love writing poetry and I love learning about poetry writing so this was very informative. Thanks.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Martie, if you haven't tried it yet, you should. It's great fun!


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 4 years ago from South Africa

The Found Poem seems to be a mighty challenge in disguise. Thanks for the information. Voted up and interesting.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Audrey, My goal, of course, if to encourage thinking :-)


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

What a great hub! It makes me think a lot about how I think when I write---


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

thank you, Artist. I'm pleased that you found this informative. Thanks for stopping by and have a gear Sunday!


anartiststyle profile image

anartiststyle 4 years ago from FL

Wow very informative

the examples were so extensive,

great hub!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Steele Fields, I'm glad you found this informative and appreciate your stop. I'll go over and check out your hubs. Is the poem you mentioned over there? I'd love to read it!


Steele Fields profile image

Steele Fields 4 years ago from drexel hill,pa

Great Hub! Thought it would be about another type of "found poetry" which is something I do with the kids at school (I teach high school English) They cut 50 or 60 isolated words from headlines and ads, then arrange them in weird and wonderful ways. The results are amazing and the exercise forces them to use high voltage words, simply because they are the very essence of headlines and ads! I wrote a poem, based upon one student's "found" poem, entitled: 'Time is a Desperate Monster' (manufactured to trouble the unconscious mind) Talk about found poetry! Anyway, thanks for the new twist on the meaning of 'found...'

Steele


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thank you Missolive. I'm pleased that you found this useful. Let me know if you end up experimenting with the found poem genre. I'd love to read them!


missolive profile image

missolive 5 years ago from Texas

Informative hub - great addition to the series. Bookmarking for future reference. Thanks for the additional resources as well.

Voted up and across


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Dim, thank you. One thing I forgot to mention in this HUb is that found poems are a great way to get over writer's block.

Hillbilly. I'm glad you found this helpful. Every poet has different styles but read your poetry out loud. You hear line breaks that you don't see on the printed/pixelated page. Thanks for bookmarking. I'm glad you found this useful!

Sue, I'm glad you found this interesting. I can certainly see why some folks wouldn't find this type of poetry appealing, but if you're ever bored or having some kind of writers block, I'd recommend trying it. it's fun. Thanks for reading and commenting!


Sueswan 5 years ago

Hi PDX

Very interesting and informative.

I never heard of a found poem. This kind of poetry does not appeal to me.

Voted up and interesting.


Hillbilly Zen profile image

Hillbilly Zen 5 years ago from Kentucky

Your explanation of these poetry forms is invaluable - thank you. I especially appreciated the tip to write the piece in prose form first, then fillet it into poetry. I'm going to have to refer to this piece again several times, I'm sure. I'm an endstopped kind of girl, I guess, because that's what makes the most sense to me. Enjambed makes me think of toast and strawberry preserves, but then again it's late and I'm the teeniest bit sleep deprived. And hungry, apparently. Voted up, useful and interesting.


Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 5 years ago from Great Britain

Absolutely brilliant hub. You´ve explained the art form so well.

l especially loved your examples taken from a newspaper.

Thank you for this.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Mathira. Thanks for reading. I hope this helps you as a poet. I look forward to reading yours!


mathira 5 years ago

I do write poems, but was a little off the mark and your hub was very interesting.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

asmal, Thanks! I think I will

Mar, it is what I'm focusing on in school. your comment made me laugh and smile :-)

Gypsy, thanks, they're a a lot of fun. pick the most boring article you can find and see if you can make it interesting with line breaks!

Jen, that's the idea. if you're caught up on line breaks, it can hinder your writing!

Snakes, me too. i try to write with the line breaks and I usually have scraps with notes and quotes, but, sometimes writing out in paragraph form helps me formulate my ideas more. I take it case by case.

Sligo, thanks! I'm glad you found this useful!

Debby, great response. Love that poem! Always nice to see you. Have a wonderful holiday.


Debby Bruck profile image

Debby Bruck 5 years ago

Dear Justin ~ Excellent lesson for today. I read slowly through the page soaking up the words and meaning. Oh! Maybe I can turn this into a poem for you?

Excellent

Lesson for today.

I read

slowly

through the page

soaking up

the words

and meaning.

Oh!

Maybe

I can turn

this into a poem

for you.

love

Debby


sligobay profile image

sligobay 5 years ago from east of the equator

This is an interesting and useful article. I particularly liked your choices of found poems, historical and modern.


snakeslane profile image

snakeslane 5 years ago from Canada

This is an interesting and informative poetry lesson PDXKaraokeGuy. When I write poetry I usually write the way it sounds right off and the line breaks come with whatever that sound may be. I often think my poems look the way they do on the page because my handwriting is big, so only a few words can fit in a line. Also often writing while travelling, or at a lap desk situation, jotting down quick notes, so comes out that way too. Thank you for something new to think about. Regards, snakeslane


jenubouka 5 years ago

This will be helpful for me. It makes it easier to just write then go back and break up the poem.

Great hub, and poems PDX! Thanks


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 5 years ago from Riga, Latvia

An interesting read and great tips, thanks. Will have to work on those found poems.


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 5 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

Help, I enjambing and I cannot get up...(LOL)

OMG, you know your poetry theory (and man, I sure don't). I am just realizing you have a series that I need to start reviewing, now that the "poetry" contest is nearing a close. I am giddy at the thought of some time to read, learn and enjoy. There is obviously much in your corner I can do just that with.

Amazing and Voted UP & UABI & just Funny (to me for my own odd reasons) Wonderful poetry, mar.


asmaiftikhar profile image

asmaiftikhar 5 years ago from Pakistan

Amazing hub keep it up!

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