A Note from Mel

Make the connection…

To a Bourgeois Sister, an experiment in line endings September 16, 2009

So I’ve been reading The Art of the Poetic Line by James Logenbach. I appreciate Logenbach’s discussion of the line break vs. line end and do agree that when a line ends, it doesn’t necessarily break; the syntax may continue. Line break implies a definitive end, a stop. But, all lines of poetry do not function in a way that makes the term line break relevant. He provides a great example by William Carlos Williams, which follows:


To a Poor Old Woman
by William Carlos Williams


munching a plum on
the street a paper bag
of them in her hand


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


You can see it by
the way she gives herself
to the one half
sucked out in her hand


a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
They taste good to her


Though I may have made slightly different decisions for line endings in lines 1 and 8, the second stanza shows masterfully the impact and/or the potential of impact line endings can have upon a reader’s experience in the vein of comprehension and emphasis.


I liked the idea so much, I gave Williams’ technique a try. My humble attempt follows:


To a Bourgeois Sister

after William Carlos Williams


fingering a mound of

pearls flowing, water

strung about overlay tips


They look fine to her

They look fine

to her. They look

fine to her


You can tell by

the way she carefully rubs

her painted lips while

stroking a singular silk bead



a solace of beaming planets

seeming to fill her eyes

They look fine to her


I’m still reading The Art of the Poetic Line. So far, so good. Check it out!

If you like the idea of revisiting popular poems, you may also want check out Conversation Pieces: Poems That Talk to Other Poems edited by Kurt Brown and Harold Schechter.


4 Responses to “To a Bourgeois Sister, an experiment in line endings”

  1. Randall Horton Says:

    Nice job Mel. Thanks for expounding upon this. I think the line break is the most important component to the aural sensation that poetry creates. But more than that, by implementing myraid fucntion for the line break, the poet creates multiple ways of viewing the poem. So now the reader has a confluence of images to sift through, and this is part of the creative process–one should always strive to keep the creativity going in the poem long after the poem has been written.

  2. vizionheiry Says:

    You’ve given me a reason to purchase his book. I always thought “A whole book on the line? Come on.” Your recreation shows how his insight can benefit a poet. This poem acts as a zoom lens onto the images: pearls, overlay tips, and painted lips. And just like William’s poem, the title gives it context.

    I featured it on my blog again. I may have to stop featuring you, since you’re obviously, an advanced poet. 🙂

  3. Glad I found this blog… poetry blogs make my heart smile. 🙂

  4. Randall? I think I have heard of you from my Affrilachian brothers and sisters. haha.

    I have also become interested in this book. I shouldn’t spend money on a book just about line breaks. But I just might.

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