Enjambment is a poetic technique in which a sentence or phrase is continued over multiple lines of poetry, without a pause or break at the end of each line. In other words, enjambment occurs when the sense of a sentence or clause runs over the end of a line and into the next, without any punctuation or pause to indicate the end of the line.
Enjambment is often used to create a sense of flow and continuity in a poem, and to emphasize certain words or ideas. It can also create tension or surprise by delaying the resolution of a phrase or sentence until the next line.
How to Identify Enjambment
- Look for the end of a line of poetry. If a sentence or phrase ends at the end of a line and the thought or meaning continues onto the next line, this may be an example of enjambment.
- Look for the absence of punctuation. If there is no punctuation mark at the end of a line of poetry and the sentence or phrase continues onto the next line, this is likely an example of enjambment.
- Read the lines of poetry aloud. If you find yourself reading the lines without pausing or stopping at the end of a line, this is a good indication that the lines are enjambed.
Here’s an example of enjambment in the poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth:
“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;”
In this poem, the sentence “That floats on high o’er vales and hills” continues onto the next line without a pause or punctuation, making it an example of enjambment. “That floats on high o’er vales and hills” runs over the end of the first line and into the second, creating a sense of movement and continuity that reinforces the image of the cloud floating through the landscape.
Examples of Enjambment:
Poem ‘Tree’: It is a good example of enjambment
The trees inside are moving out into the forest,
the forest that was empty all these days
where no bird could sit
no insect hide
no sun bury its feet in shadow
the forest that was empty all these nights
will be full of trees by morning.
All night the roots work
to disengage themselves from the cracks
in the veranda floor.
The leaves strain toward the glass
small twigs stiff with exertion
long-cramped boughs shuffling under the roof
like newly discharged patients
to the clinic doors.
I sit inside, doors open to the veranda
writing long letters
in which I scarcely mention the departure
of the forest from the house.
The night is fresh, the whole moon shines
in a sky still open
the smell of leaves and lichen
still reaches like a voice into the rooms.
My head is full of whispers
which tomorrow will be silent.
Listen. The glass is breaking.
The trees are stumbling forward
into the night. Winds rush to meet them.
The moon is broken like a mirror,
its pieces flash now in the crown
of the tallest oak.
Few more examples
“Daffodils” by William Wordsworth
“For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;”
“The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams
“So much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
Few more examples
“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.”
– T.S. Eliot
“She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes”
– Lord Byron
Enjambment is a literary device in which a sentence or phrase continues from one line of poetry to the next without a pause or punctuation mark. Here are some tips to help you identify enjambment in a poem: