National Poetry Month Day 10

Moving the Dead

quietly, calmly, without fuss
like turning out the lights in
a room you are leaving; no sense
at all in considering who may be
left grieving. Take a night bus
to the next world without a return
ticket to this, and crumple up
the receipt within your world-
weary fist; quietly, calmly,
with no intention of alarming,
slip from your family, whom you’re
sure you’re not harming but helping:
like locking the door on your
way to work: leaving the rest of us
to go slowly beserk without you.

— Delilah Des Anges

Enjambment, which as a French word is supposed to be pronounced “ohn-john-b’mon” but which I mutinously insisted on pronouncing as “en-jamb-ment” all the way through university despite frequent and frustrated correction, is the opposite of end-stopping. When the subject of the sentence continues onto the next line, when the clause breaks across two lines, that is enjambment; it is a bloody useful tool in the poet’s box in rhyming poetic forms, especially villanelles, and also for forms like the sestina where a specific word is required at the end of each sentence, as it saves one from trying to struggle out a grammatical sentence that ends in the same particular words in six different ways, and allows a coherent narrative to take place.

Moving The Dead, here, also demonstrates a favourite technique of mine to combine with enjambment (or indeed to use dissonantly with end-stopped lines), which is the internal rhyme. As one might expect, this involves littering the body of lines with sounds that resonate or outright rhyme with sounds in other nearby lines, rather than confining the rhyming syllables to the easily-observed ends of the lines. This tends to work best with metered poetry, but even with unmetered it creates a sense of tighter cohesion and links the concepts expressed in the mind of the reader. It can make the fact that the poem rhymes at all harder to spot, and causes it to sound rhythmical and bouncy without the reader necessarily knowing why at first.


Throughout this month I will be nagging readers to donate to MSF

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