Thought I'd indulge myself with a post about enjambement. Not much chance of a wide readership for this one, but I must be missing the classroom or something.
The poem referred to in the previous post, R.S.Thomas' "Evans", uses enjambement in what I would recognise as two different modes. The start of the poem tells how the poet recalled his leaving of the sick man's house, and here the enjambement suggests an almost breathless haste, as if the visiting vicar, "appalled" at his failure to help the man in any way, cannot wait to be outside again.
Evans? Yes, many a time
I came down his bare flight
Of stairs into the gaunt kitchen
With its wood fire, where crickets sang
Accompaniment to the black kettle's
Whine, and so into the cold
However, there is also the prominence of the words which start the lines: accompaniment, whine, dark - and "dark" is used here as a noun, as Thomas goes on to talk about "the dark/ silting the veins of that sick man", a dark that the light of faith cannot alleviate. A complex poem reflecting on the failure of a complex man to fulfil his secondary calling - that of priest - in the language that Thomas saw as his one refuge from a world "glib with prose."
As he grew older, Thomas used this device even more starkly, as here, from "Launching a Prayer":
The stripling posturing
before the hero;
the mature man
Here, the stanza break (this is a three stanza poem) emphasises, builds up to the word "God" - and Thomas always thought of God with awe.
I'd like to look briefly at favourite examples of enjambement from two other poets - my response to sorlil's comment yesterday. The first is from Norman McaCaig's "Visiting Hour". The poet, on his way to visit an apparently dying woman in hospital, writes:
I will not feel, I will not
I have to.
Read that aloud and the jaw-clenching self-control is brought out by the marking of the line breaks as much as by the repetition of the words "will not feel".
Similarly, in T.S.Eliot's great poem "Journey of the Magi", one of the "wise men" who sought the infant Christ looks back over his life at that momentous journey so long ago.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death?
As the old man dictates to a scribe, his hesitation as he searches for words to express his bafflement are there in the enjambement, along with the repetition that underlines his determination to convey his overwhelming question.
Great. It took me such a long time to realise this, but it was worth the wait. A final thought for the educators out there: it's when you're really fired up by something you teach, as I am by poetry of this calibre, that the magic happens. There is this awesome responsibilty not to let the poet down by your teaching - death by a thousand cuts to the teacher who cares not! I'll give R.S Thomas the last say on such moments:
But here once on an evening like this,
in the darkness that was about
his hearers, a preacher caught fire
and burned steadily before them.....