Caesura and Enjambment


April 3, 2014 by KWills

The letter CA caesura (pronounced: “sez-your-ah”) is the poetic equivalent of a full stop, or at least a comma.  It can occur anywhere in a line, as we saw on Tuesday with Anglo-Saxon verse and the mid-line pause.

Enjambment is the opposite of a caesura – where one line flows naturally into the next.  Mixing these techniques allows you to control the “stability” of a poem.

A line, or series of lines, ending in solid pauses, creates a feeling of certainty. A sense of “this is so”, whether the poem is talking about walks in the park or dying for a cause. When, however, the pauses fall mostly mid-line, the whole poem becomes much more unsure – maybe the narrator doesn’t entirely mean what he says, or is trying to convince himself of something. Maybe the poem is about fear, or doubt. Maybe it’s a stream of consciousness piece, full of disconnected thoughts.

Most poems mix caesura and enjambment, and are stronger as a result. Neither one is better than the other; it’s all about the effect you are going for.  So, in today’s poem, I’m going to focus on my line endings. The form I’ve chosen is the traditional cinquain (I’ll be exploring various modern cinquains later in the month), being a fairly straight-forward, five-line poem with a simple rhyme scheme.  There are many variations, but I’ve chosen five lines of equal length, with an abbab rhyme.


Laying and staring at the sky;
Layer upon layer of cloud
Never merging, each seeming proud
Of my watching, fanciful eye
To see pictures in that crowd.

Thinking, and trying to sift through
Layer upon layer of dreams
Half-remembered, half reconvened
In a bright, kaleidoscope view
Where the past and future are seamed.

Hmm, not particularly happy with this one.  Still, time marches on and the point of the exercise is to learn to march with it.  Were I less pressed for time I would have tried for a Chant Royal, which looks like a brilliant form, but is very complicated. Another for my “later” list, perhaps.

By the way, thank you to my lovely commenters. I will try to respond to you all, either with a direct reply or by visiting and commenting on your blog. I’m glad to find people who are interested in what I’m learning about poetry. If you have anything to add, please do. I’m no expert, just another writer trying to learn the ropes.



7 thoughts on “Caesura and Enjambment

  1. Aditi says:

    This was so informative… Looking forward to your future posts!
    And I loved your poem…dreamy!

  2. saxtoncorner says:

    This is wonderful! Having a fear of poetry myself, I feel I will learn a great deal here. I love your poem,to me it’s one of those lazy days, lying on the grass contemplating. I hope you’re enjoying the A-Z challenge so far 🙂

  3. […] Chosen form: Cascade, invented by Udit Bhatia. The first stanza (which can be as long or as short as you like) provides the last lines of the subsequent stanzas. There are no rules about meter or rhyme, but I’ve chosen an abba rhyme scheme, with eight syllables to a line. Following on from what I’ve learned this week, I’ve also included some alliteration, euphony, and a mix of caesura and enjambment. […]

  4. Alex Hurst says:

    I had to share your blog on Twitter and Facebook. I am just learning so many cool things about poetry from you! It’s really helping me, since even though I don’t write poetry, I have a lot of friends who do, and I want to understand their craft better. 🙂 Thanks so much for these cool context lessons before your poems. And the poem was lovely too!

    Alex Hurst, fantasy author in Japan, participating in Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

    • K. Willsen says:

      Wow, thanks. And thanks for the tweet – I’m blushing. I hope I can keep the standard up through the month, and hopefully beyond.

      Your blog looks really interesting. I haven’t had time to give it the attention it deserves, but I’ll be going on an archive binge once the mad rush of April passes. I write fantasy too, and I look forward to learning from your experiences.

      • Alex Hurst says:

        Don’t worry. There isn’t any pressure at all. 🙂 I don’t comment for the sake of getting a comment in return. ❤ Live life, be happy and productive, and don't sweat something so small!

  5. anxiousgeek says:

    I love a good enjambment.


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