Jump to content
Poetry Magnum Opus

Tinker's Blog

  • entries
  • comments
  • views

The Poetic Line



If the word is the cornerstone of poetry,  the line is it's foundation. The line is the fundamental element of verse, the difference between verse and prose. Its purpose is to increase the density of the thought or image and give focus to the words.  The line is written in many styles, patterns and meters. 

I recently discovered this article by Dana Gioia on the poetic line which prompted this blog.  After reading it I realized I cannot improve on it.  It says it all, I encourage you to read it.   The Poetic Line .  Dana Gioia is Former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, an award winning poet and is currently the Poet Laureate of California.

As a side note, indentation of the line and/or centering the poem on the page is at the poet's discretion.  Indenting a line midway or at the end of a stanza can give emphasis to the line.  Sometimes centering a poem can enhance the content by the visual positioning.  However in my opinion, all too often centering a poem is used as a gimmick to distract from the lack of substance.  It should compliment the content otherwise keep lines at left margin. 

For further information about some of the more common poetic lines you can also go to The Frame.   



Recommended Comments

hi Tink

Many relevant points made in that article. The emphasis on pattern in particular.


The word at the end of a poetic line should bear the weight of imaginative or musical scrutiny. The end word of a line is highly visible and audible. Never end lines on weak words unless there is a strong expressive necessity. The end words—rhymed or unrhymed—should generate energy for the poem.

I do feel, especially in the use of rhyme, that lines trot to an inevitable end line weight. The use of a trochee at the beginning of a line provides counter to that weight; a caesura also provides pivot balance; verbs and nouns placed at the line beginning provide dynamic. A pattern of weak words to begin lines can be as flawed as weak end line words in the overall effect.

Thanks for sharing


Link to comment

Nice addition Badge Thanks.    

Yes beginning and end words in the line have extreme importance.  It always surprises me when modern poets end a line with "and".  I see it all of the time.  Your point of beginning with a trochee for balance makes total sense.  Beginning with a trochee always commands attention on the first syllable.  In To Read a Poem by Donald Hall, his first chapter is "Good Poems" and proceeds to explicate 3 poems, the first is Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.  He spends a lot of time discussing word placement in the line and how important the beginning and end lines are.  Frost was a genius at it.


Link to comment

Cool find. These are all great points in the linked article. Each one of them could be discussed in great detail and supplemented with examples. So much work to be done ...


Link to comment

Join the conversation

You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.