Tony Hoagland gave me this lineation exercise and I thought it would be a great idea to post it and see what others might do with it. I encourage everyone to try it and post your results.
According to his exercise, “There are several strategies and many practices regarding lineation, but basically one learns by doing; by taking the same piece of text and breaking the lines and stanzas in different ways, and seeing what the various effects are.
Line-breaking, and the free verse line, has been one of the most revolutionary and new aspects of twentieth century poetry, and an enormous amount of experimentation and thought has gone into their technology—Williams is the primary genius of the American line, and you can look forward to people like Olson and Creely and Levertov, etc, to find people who have had theories and made their contributions.
Try line-breaking these poem: Consider where you would break it for the common-sense units; to tell the story in a way that is measured and rhythmic and easy for the reader. Then also consider where you could create some interesting twists and surprises for the reader with enjambents.
Poem #1 The Meaning of Elko, Nevadah
The streets of my town were lined with cottonwood trees that snowed on the children that walked to the Catholic school and old people watering their lawns, or washing their cars, and on Saturdays, fathers taking their children to the hardware store, then the Tastee Freeze and the young lovers that would hide behind that stand of fir trees in Mr. McKelvey’s yard and the highschool cheerleaders whom all of the young girls looked up to tthat got pregnant their senior year and stayed forever in that same town.
Poem # 2 The Act
There were the roses, in the rain. Don’t cut them, I pleaded.
They won’t last, she said. But they’re so beautiful where they are. Agh, we were all beautiful once, she said and cut them and gave them to me in my hand.