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The Art of the Poetic Line

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  397 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
The Art Of series is a new line of books reinvigorating the practice of craft and criticism. Each book will be a brief, witty, and useful exploration of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry by a writer impassioned by a singular craft issue. The Art Of volumes will provide a series of sustained examinations of key but sometimes neglected aspects of creative writing by some of con ...more
Paperback, 120 pages
Published December 26th 2007 by Graywolf Press
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Sep 13, 2009 Julene rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: poets who write poetry
This whole series is excellent. I heard James Longenbach speak from this book at AWP in NYC and I was transfixed wanting to get it all down. At the end I asked if everything he said was in the book and he said yes. This book is very helpful for my own poetry, he explains in a way I've not heard before, about what it means to annotate and to parse lines:

to Annotate lines is to cut against a grammatical unit—to annotating the syntax with emphasis the syntex itself would not provide. The negative a
Apr 26, 2011 Tiffany rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all poets
Recommended to Tiffany by: Gerry LaFemina
Shelves: craft-books
I found Longenbach's explanation of line endings as opposed to line breaks helpful. One of the first points he makes is that the term line break is an inaccurate metaphor because when a line ends, the syntax may not also break, and that it is the relationship between line and syntax that forms the music of poems. I also found the discussion of various types of enjambement (annotating line and parsing line) to be really interesting, particularly as I am reading Chronic by D.A. Powell. I also fina ...more
Oct 24, 2009 Oscar rated it really liked it
Excellent instructional text. If you've ever wondered why lines end the way they do or how to vary our own poetics, this is the book for you. Clearly written for a writer who is already versed in contemporary American poetics that is seeking to delve into another layer of their craft; read-not for the workshop faint-hearted.

Jul 06, 2009 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: textbooks, poetry
Useful terminology -- endstopped, parsing, and annotating lines -- and clear thinking, as always with Longenbach. A little ponderous at times.
Mar 22, 2010 V. rated it really liked it
Short, sweet. Finally criticism that is useful to the act of writing poetry.
Apr 21, 2013 Belinda rated it liked it
This is a helpful book if you want to learn about enjambment, prose vs poetry, end lines, etc.
At one point Longenbach considers Marian Moore's "When I buy pictures" and ticks the box for both her first and final versions. One is "anotated" the other is "parsed." I found the latter easier to read, the first version irritating although interesting too. Longenback holds up both as examples of how you can layout your poetry but there is no definitive answer as to what works best.
Word play is great,
Apr 01, 2013 CG FEWSTON rated it really liked it
The fifth book I have read in the series “The Art of…” (edited by Charles Baxter) has continued with my overall pleasure of these short, but extremely useful books on writing. The Art of the Poetic Line focuses on the line in poems, and in some cases, prose, and how the poet creates a sonic pleasure through line endings (otherwise known as “line breaks”). Whether you are a poet or novelist, this book should prove useful on how to consider sounds of syllables, words, and line endings to increase ...more
Jan 24, 2016 Leonard rated it really liked it
I've heard many definitions of poetry, but one of the simplest, most complete, and most memorable I heard many years ago, is simply that poetry is "a line art." It's probably my favorite definition of poetry. So, of course, I was attracted to a book with this title. It's a small, short book with long chapters and it reminds the reader that writing poetry is a precise craft. Longenbach, who teaches at the University of Rochester, writes, "Poetry is the sound of language organized in lines." This ...more
Feb 15, 2013 Sandra rated it really liked it
In this succinct guide to lineation, we learn about power of the line to convey energy and amplify meaning in a poem, particularly in relationship to syntax. "The drama of lineation lies in the simultaneous making and breaking of our expectation for pattern," states Longenbach (p. 70), who uses numerous and evocative examples from the masters, past and present, to illustrate his point.

The third section on prose poetry drives home what he says in the first two. I have gained a whole new apprecia
Brent Pinkall
May 11, 2016 Brent Pinkall rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings about this book. While I came away with a better understanding of the various effects of line endings, I feel like Longenbach's explanations and examples are not always clear. Additionally, I feel like he spent too much time on free verse (almost the entire book) and too quickly approves of any poetry that claims to be poetry. I get the impression that someone could copy a dictionary entry and, if the man was a self-proclaimed "poet," Longenbach would go on to explain how e ...more
Jan 16, 2015 Shari rated it it was amazing
This is an amazingly balanced book on poetry, and will likely take your understanding and appreciation of the poetic line to a higher level. As poetry is subjective, I often find myself annoyed when I notice the flavor of an author's own preferences seeping into the text when analyzing poetry, or even worse, the author's own poems in lieu of a more classic example, but not here. Longenbach also doesn't err in the other direction and use the same old tired examples we've seen analyzed ad-nauseum ...more
Jul 30, 2008 Bob rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Longenbach defines three types of line breaks: end-stopped; parsing (breaks on syntactic borders); and annotated (breaks which suspend and transform meaning between two lines.)

He applies the words "thrilling" and "exciting" to examples of poetry that I find to be neither. I was also irked by his grouping of Shakespeare and Milton with the "thrilling" and
"exciting" Glück and Bidart.

I agree with what Longenbach says in theory, but I personally found some of his examples to be underwhelming, if no
Sep 21, 2014 Corin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quote from Poem and Prose:

"This kind of movement--the establishment of a formal decorum in which even the smallest variation from it feels thrilling--is what makes the act of reading a poem feel like the act of writing a poem. It is what makes a poem an experience we need to have more than once, an act of discovery that is contingent not simply upon what we learn but on the temporal process of discovering how it feels to learn again what we've always known."

-James Logenbach
Oliver Ho
Feb 12, 2014 Oliver Ho rated it really liked it
Having just read Dean Young's "Art of Recklessness," this book was a bit of a comedown simply because it's more straightforward and less of a mind-explosion. Nevertheless, it's interesting and ultimately useful and rewarding. I'm glad to have learned and thought about Longenbach's concepts here involving parsing lines, annotating lines and end-stopping lines, and about the impact of variation involving all three styles. I can see returning to this book often.
Jim Longenbach has written one of the most informative and understandable books on the use of "line" as a poetic device.
Lavishly supported by poems from all periods, Jim manages to be clear, concise, yet completely nonjudgmental about the way in which lines can work in poetry. A must read for anyone writing poetry.
Jan 23, 2009 Celia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Going to have to read this a couple of times over, taking notes. I have never understood lineation better, I must say. Longenbach writes clearly despite the difficult material (especially for the uninitiated), and gives plenty of examples. I highly recommend it to anyone who writes/teaches/reads poetry seriously.
Dec 01, 2008 Nina rated it really liked it
Longenbach is passionate about his subject. He uses examples from both classic and modern poetry to demonstrate his main point: "Poetry is the sound of language organized in lines." He discusses syntax and line endings in detail.
Oct 04, 2010 Andreea rated it liked it
Shelves: english-lit-1a
A bit pointlessly long, but overall instructive. For some reason (I suspect it's the general oddity of American English) the author uses "sonic" instead of "auditory" (e.g. sonic imagery). Reminded me of Doctor Who which caused much distraction.
Dan Ust
Dec 13, 2015 Dan Ust rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've read on poetry. His view of poetry as the sounds of language organized in lines, is bound to cause argument, though it strikes me as fruitful and helpful to both the reader and writer of poetry.
Jeff Streeby
Jul 22, 2009 Jeff Streeby rated it really liked it
I'm about half-way through and there is nothing in it yet that I didn't learn from Michael Waters. It is thoughtful book and well-written and insightful and for me has so far constituted a good review of essential principles.
Aug 13, 2008 Audrey rated it it was amazing
Scholarly but never glib or inassessible. This is an interesting treatise on the poetic line. I'd recommend this for any serious reader or writer of poetry, and definitely would make it required reading for MFA students.
Mar 19, 2011 Rachel rated it really liked it
Really interesting (if not a bit repetitive at times). Anyone versed in poetry (ZING!) knows what lines do, but reading this book-length essay has gotten me to rethink what I know at a time when I really need to. I want to go through all of my poems now and rework the lines, just to play around.
Barbara Gabriel
Apr 21, 2013 Barbara Gabriel rated it liked it
If you've been out of college awhile, you'll notice the difference between this an other poetry craft books: this one is a lecture. Not that there's anything wrong with that. :) That being said, I enjoyed it and learned something, which was the point.
Juliana Gray
Nov 20, 2013 Juliana Gray rated it it was amazing
This is a really smart, readable book on prosody. I don't know if I would recommend it as a textbook for undergraduates, but I plan on using parts of it in my classes. I recommend this to any poet, or anyone interested in poetry.
Janelle Fila
Jan 24, 2016 Janelle Fila rated it it was ok
I had a difficult time following this book. I had hoped it was more informational but, unfortunately, most of the poems it used as examples didn't relate to my work.
Feb 27, 2016 Drunken_orangetree rated it really liked it
A very good and lucid discussion of how lineation works in poetry. Lots of examples and very clear explanations.
Sep 23, 2008 Natalie rated it really liked it
Worth reading, but I am not fawning over it the way so many people seem to be. It has some great thought.
Colleen S.
Mar 25, 2012 Colleen S. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: poetry readers, poets
Recommended to Colleen by: Jeanie Thompson
Shelves: on-writing
A fantastic treatise on the line, noting its importance in relation to syntax and grammar. Highly recommended for all poetry readers and writers, and anyone interested in the rhythm of language.
Jul 07, 2013 secondwomn rated it really liked it
Shelves: school, about-poetry, 2013
Super useful and not overly technical. Longenbach intelligently and accessibly describes various possibilities of the poetic line in English verse.
Jun 24, 2016 Maureen rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Poetry reference book on line endings. This book has great value although it feels a bit obscure at times.
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  • The Art of Syntax: Rhythm of Thought, Rhythm of Song
  • The Art of Description: World into Word
  • The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction
  • The Life of Poetry
  • Poetic Meter and Poetic Form
  • Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry
  • The Poem's Heartbeat: A Manual of Prosody, Revised Edition
  • The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms
  • The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises From Poets Who Teach
  • Best Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry
  • Real Sofistikashun: Essays on Poetry and Craft
  • Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within
  • Close Calls With Nonsense: Reading New Poetry
  • On Poetry and Craft: Selected Prose
  • Rhyme's Reason: A Guide to English Verse
  • Writing the Australian Crawl
  • The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets
  • Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse
James Longenbach is a poet and critic whose work is often featured in publications such as The New Yorker, Paris Review, and Slate. He lives in Rochester, New York.
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