Enjambment, the term used to describe a sentence “broken” across multiple lines of verse, translates literally as “straddling.” In a poem, each sentence’s legs—les jambes, in French—may stretch, strain, multiply, merge, or diverge to create the music unique to a specific utterance. No question haunts the poetry workshop more persistently than, “But what about where the line breaks?” It is usually a fair question deserving more than just a shrug, and yet so many of us can’t quite say. The question is related to others: Why is it that so many poems we write have a heart but no pulse? a mouth, but no voice? elbow room, but no leg room, and only the stale, circulated air of the cabin with which to breathe? In this generative workshop, we will address various forms, theories, and practices of poetic lineation, from the end-stopped couplets of Alexander Pope to the free-wheeling stanza patterns of Laura Kasischke, stopping along the way to marvel at the technical and thematic inventions of Robert Frost, James Merrill, Lucille Clifton, Eduardo C. Corral, and others. Prior experience with poetry—or any terms associated with it—is neither required nor expected.
Justin Jannise is the author of How to Be Better by Being Worse (BOA Editions, 2021), which won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize. Recently a recipient of the Inprint Verlaine Prize in Poetry and a former Editor-in-Chief of Gulf Coast, Justin holds degrees from Yale University, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the University of Houston, and now teaches at Prairie View A&M University.