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Literature Glossary

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Enjambment

Definition:

Enjambment occurs when a phrase carries over a line-break without a major pause. In French, the word means "straddling," which we think is a perfect way to envision an enjambed line. When you read an enjambed line, the sense of it encourages you to keep right on reading the next line, without stopping for a breather.

Take, for example, these lines from John Keats's "Bright Star":

Or gazing on the new soft-fallen masque
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—

The only way to make sense of those lines is to lump them together—to enjamb them. In a poem full of end-stopped lines, these two lines leap out by running together.

By the way, E.E. Cummings was a master of enjambment. Take a look at "in Just–" for some examples.

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