Breaking the Line

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What makes a poem a poem? So many things that books have been written in answer to to the question! What is interesting me at the moment is the use of white space on the page. As Glyn Maxwell famously wrote in On Poetry ‘Poets work with two materials, one’s black, one’s white’ and it’s the interaction of the two that not only frames a poem but allows it to breathe. Even more than that, the white space has been likened to a musical score, giving instructions to the eye on how to read and the ear on how to receive.
Line breaks are an integral part of these instructions, the emphasis they bring to the word at the end of the line or the word at the beginning of the next is central to the construction and interpretation of a poem.
Holly Pester used a great example in her article in Poetry News Vol 109:2 Looking at ‘The other plum poem’ by William Carlos Williams

To a Poor Old Woman

They taste good to her
They taste good
to her. They taste
good to her

In four short lines, moving the line breaks has created a pattern of different meanings and emphasis and intensified the sensation within the poem. Wow, powerful things these line breaks!
Here’s one of mine, the title poem from the pamphlet and one where line breaks play a significant part in the reading and meaning of the poem.

The dogs that chase bicycle wheels

stare out of windows,
checking the boundaries

checking the boundaries.

They have territories to protect,

circling

from the backs of sofas

to front doors,

to kitchens,
whole worlds held in their flat eyes.

Postmen breach defences,
dropping offerings
to be bitten, ripped and pissed on.

Straining to a point always
just in front of their noses,
the click

clicking of bicycle wheels

tricking them into the frenzy of a chase
for the white scut of a rabbit.

Unceasingly they scout crowded horizons
for what is not there,

will never be there.

Poetry Workshops at Sidmouth Folk Festival

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Not long to go now,  the week long folk extravaganza that is Sidmouth Folk Festival is only a couple of weeks away! Music, dance, singing, storytelling and now poetry are all on the programme.  In the elegant and relaxed atmosphere of the Drawing room of the Royal Glen Hotel from 11.30- 1pm Sunday to Thursday, we’ll be using a variety of prompts and devices to stimulate our poetry brains.  No previous writing experience is necessary, the workshops are suitable for novices as well as more experienced writers. They are stand alone but the more you come to, the more fun you’ll have! The subjects for this year’s workshops include ‘poetry of sound and silence’, ‘how to write a ballad’ and ‘poetry games’. If you’ve never experienced ‘Poetry Countdown’ or ‘Poetry what’s in the Bag?’ come along and find out! There’s also a chance to perform in the poetry slot in the Friday Morning Showcase concert.

New for this year is also Sidmouth’s first Poetry Open Mic. It will be held at The Woodlands Hotel on Tuesday 6th August from 5-7pm. Sign up on the door to read for up to four minutes, either your own work or bring along a favourite poem or two you’d like to share. Experienced writers or new poets welcome, or if you don’t want to read, the Woodlands is a perfect place to relax for a couple of hours and just listen to poetry. There will also be a chance to hear me read, I can always guarantee some poems about animals but also watch out for one or two about Morris dancing! I will be joined by a local poet, the amazing Jan Dean, whose work as a Poet-in-Schools has inspired new generations. She also writes ‘Poetry for grown-ups’ and her reading style and unique take on life are guaranteed to have you entertained and enthralled.

Contact me on ilse.pedler@zen.co.uk for more information.