Line Breaks–Again

This week I delighted in watching Marvyne Jenoff’s new video created for The Arts and Letters Club of Toronto, or I have long been a fan of Marvyne’s work, both visual and poetic. The video presented not simply her reciting poems from her latest book Climbing the Rain (Silver Bow Publishing, 2022) but set them against a shifting background of her beautiful abstract collages, in turn overlaid by the printed text of each poem as she performed. I was struck by this layering. On a practical level, I really appreciated being able to view the lines myself and simultaneously listen to Marvyne’s rendering. Not only did my rusty hearing catch every word, but it was also clear how perfectly the line breaks on the page served as a score for Marvyne’s rhythm and intonations.

—Yet another reason why I protest the arbitrarily excessive enjambment some poets indulge in. Such poems may look fashionable on screen or on paper, but I cannot imagine how cacophonous they would sound aloud, if eye pitted against ear, the poet’s voice followed their starts and stops as if sheet music. Considering how line breaks help orchestrate a poem, why not use them to enhance rather than counter what the poet wishes to express?