Saturday, February 23, 2013

Random Literary Devices – End-Stopped Lines, Caesura, and Enjambment

All about punctuation in poetry: last week the Nardvark was all confused about rhythm and metre, and Nerdvark stopped playing WOW long enough to sort him out.  Now, surprisingly, Nardvark is confused again.  Seems he copied and pasted an excellent essay about a poem, but that wasn’t good enough for his teacher, even though it had awesome literary terms in it like ‘enjambment’ and ‘caesura.’

Nerdvark is pretty dang cranky because he was in the middle of building the most awesome life-sized King-Kong replica in Mine Craft and now he has to help that ninny Nard with his homework AGAIN, but whatevz.

So it seems punctuation can either enhance the rhythm or disrupt it.

End-stopped line: this refers to the placing of a punctuation mark at the end of a line of poetry.  The effect – causing the reader to pause briefly before reading the next line.  It is generally consistent with the rhythm.

For example, the first two lines from Roald Dahl’s excellent iambic tetrameter poem, “Mike Teevee...”

The most important thing we've learned,  (end-stopped)
So far as children are concerned,  (end-stopped)

Caesura: this refers to the placing of a punctuation mark in the middle of a line of poetry.  The effect – causing the reader to pause briefly in the middle of the line, which breaks up the rhythm and emphasises the word or phrase before and/or after the caesura. 

There are a few examples in the next lines of “Mike Teevee...”

Is never, NEVER, NEVER let  (caesura)
Them near your television set -- 
Or better still, just don't install  (caesura)
The idiotic thing at all. 

Enjambment: this refers to the LACK of punctuation marks at the end of a line of poetry.  The effect -- causing the reader to flow into the next line without pausing.  This also breaks up the rhythm and allows the poem to read more like normal speech than a song or poem.  It can give the effect of an internal monologue, dialogue, or informal prose, and is often used in free verse (non-rhyming, non-rhythmic) poetry.

There are some examples in the next few lines from “Mike Teevee...”

In almost every house we've been, 
We've watched them gaping at the screen. 
They loll and slop and lounge about, 
And stare until their eyes pop out. 
(Last week in someone's place we saw (enjambment)
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.) 
They sit and stare and stare and sit  (enjambment)
Until they're hypnotised by it, 
Until they're absolutely drunk  (enjambment)
With all that shocking ghastly junk. 

To read the rest of “Mike Teevee...” please click here: Roald Dahl is awesome!  And as you read, see if you can spot more examples of end-stopped lines, caesura, and enjambment.

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