What is Enjambment?

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What is Enjambment?
In poetry, enjambment refers to a break of a couplet, sentence, clause, or phrase by means of a second line or verse. Instead of the standard straight line sentence, an enjambment may be used to break a particular phrase into two verses. The term “enjambment” has French roots (“enjambement”) and it means “to straddle” or “straddling”. And since an enjambment gives a break from the first line to the second line, this poetry term is also known as a “run-on line”.

A common use for enjambment in writing poetry is to somewhat force the reader into completing the entire thought of the line by reading the second line. When the first line or verse is read, the effect on the reader would be like that of some teaser making him/her expect from the line and so proceeds to read the next line. The line break may be used to surprise the reader or simply to provide a delay in processing the message of the poetry. So if a poem reads “I think I shall never see” on the first line” and a second line follows with “A poem lovely as a tree”, one can say that this particular sentence is broken into two lines or verses to stimulate the reader’s thoughts and allow him/her to imagine how this sentence will actually end. The use of the line break or enjambment on the second line creates a surprise and provides anticipation to the reader which is a basic feature of poetry.

And because a break in the thought of one sentence is provided, more interest is built at the point of view of the reader. Otherwise, if the sentence were given flatly and directly in one line, the written piece wouldn’t seem interesting to the reader. In poems written in the past, the technique called “end-stop” provides the detail of a verse or phrase in a single line. This technique served a different purpose and provided readers with details on a single line. Breaks on the lines using enjambments meanwhile stimulate the flow of thought in reading poetry. For some readers, the enjambment technique provides the element of surprise as the thought is completed only when the succeeding line or verse is read.

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