Pattiann Rogers' Three Lists of Suggestions to Consider

Here are three lists containing a few suggestions for you to consider on how to think about breaking lines, using stanza breaks, and choosing a title for your poem. They are not the only suggestions possible. You may have other reasons than the ones I've suggested. And you may have different reasons for breaking lines in some poems than in others and different reasons for inserting stanza breaks in some poems than in others.

My primary emphasis is that you should have some reason for why you are breaking lines where you are, why you are making stanza breaks where you are, and why you have chosen the title you've given the poem. If the breaks are done haphazardly, the reader will be able to detect that and possibly be confused, and, you, as writer, may feel tentative about the final form of your poem too.

You can decide where to break your lines at any time during the writing process. But you will probably break your lines and then readjust them as you delete and add to the poem until the poem nears completion. This is true of stanza breaks, as well.

Breaking lines and inserting stanza breaks are similar to a sculptor giving form to a lump of clay placed on a work table. The unformed clay is like the first words you place on your paper or monitor. If you are writing "free" verse, you can begin to shape those words into a form by stanza breaks and line breaks of your own choosing. But free verse is not "free", and it is not formless. You are creating the guidelines for the form as you write, attempting to meet the needs of the poem.

If for a title, you just toss a word or a phrase at the top of your poem without much thought, you've wasted an opportunity to enrich your poem (as I explain in the list of suggestions for titles).

Breaking lines and inserting stanza breaks and creating a title are three of the many tools you have available to you to help give your poem strength, clarity, and music.

For more about Pattiann Rogers, see: The Poetry World of Pattiann Rogers.