Section Break.

I've been screening for several contests and I've noticed many people using and misusing section breaks. So I will provide you with visual examples of some of the things I've seen and a minor rant.


This is a section break:  stuff || stuff


And sometimes there's this--a section break followed by a longish poem, and then another section break, which, visually, looks like this:

stuff||longish poem||stuff


Sometimes there are no section breaks: stuffinonelongsequence.


Sometimes there are multiple section breaks: stuff||stuff||stuff||stuff||stuff||stuff


Do what you want with a section break, just make sure your readers are crossing those breaks with you.


People are using section breaks to put away disparate material. This is fine, however I must say this--don't sprinkle poop on the ice cream.


A book manuscript is an organism. It moves. It grows. It has a personality. When you put material that just doesn't fit, you're doing a disservice to the other material.


My long poem class had the opportunity to speak with Allison Benis White, and they were stunned by her process. She basically put the manuscript together by adding poems and then re-reading the manuscript with each new addition. So, for example, she put "From Degas' Sketchbook" and "Waiting" and read the two together. Then she added "The Bellelli Family," and, from the beginning, read through the whole manuscript together. Then "Seated Dancer, Head in Hands." Then "Absinthe." Etc.. That's a hell of a process.

What I'm finding is that lots of these manuscripts have very excellent poems, but the sectional breaks in the collections as a whole are not intuitive. The tonal qualities of the "stuff" in one section doesn't match the other "stuff." Or the tonal qualities of the "stuff" in one section doesn't offer a bridge, a transition, movement, clarity, etc.. There's no evolution occurring in the breaks between sections. No inertia.


Okay. I'm done complaining.


Students in my long poem class are doing some amazing things for their final performances. One student created a reticulated image to represent his work. Another created a sculpture. And still, another did a swing dance.

So . . . wow.


For those of you who've inquired about the anthology, we're still reading through the submissions. We got submissions from almost 300 poets. That's a lot of poets and a lot of poems.


Current Spin:



Oliver de la Paz