Sunday, May 06, 2007


JH: Can a caesura be read as similar to enjambment? Caesura is often read as rhythm, or, as when recurring in one place - strict or approximate - from line to line, form (as in pattern). Any space between words has a purpose: to distinguish one word from another, or one line from another. Does enjambment have something caesura does not? More than enjambment, caesura allows for the human voice. The act of sounding each word of a line carries its rhythm into the next line, but each line after the first line is dead (that is to say, impenetrable and uncommunicative) without this animation. This is true of poems with a set rhythm and poems with incidental rhythms that change from line to line. What would a poem be without its first line? If the first line is missing from a stanza that is not the opening stanza of the poem, does it matter? There may be a caesura without a punctuation mark, but enjambment requires a line break. There may be discretion in identifying a caesura, but enjambment dictates its presence to the reader. Does enjambment flourish in the literary, and languish in the oral? Has poetry become, over the years, stronger on the page than in the voice?

AHB: Last question first, I think poetry is much stronger on the page than in the voice. The oral tradition no longer carries the import it did, and the possibilities of visual poetry has extended via technologies. Net art and just the comparative ease now to mess with fonts and colours and such. My own memory is anything but eidetic so I don't carry poems with me as others might. Your questions on caesura are hard to answer. I don't notice it as such as I write or read. I may note the pause, but don't place the idea in theory terms. Of course one has to breathe as one reads, and even reading to oneself, one stops to get around a phrase. Caesura seems most useful in regular metre, where it can prevent the foot from stepping too mechanically. Hence Dickinson's dashes, there to have you see the words as well as the sentence. I often start with a 1st line, and carefully hold myself from thinking any further, wanting to place the words on the page rather than think them prior. To take that line away is a strange containment. Maybe it would be good to throw out the 1st line, like the scoring in gymnastics and skating. In media res. I don't know what it would be like to willfully disallow lines in a plangent way like that. Maybe we need to think like that, just to see if the borders can be changed.