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Life of Leon And Line Breaks

 They say it is the line and where it is broken that provides the rhythm of a poem. The longer the line, the more the poem sounds like natural speech. Poets break lines for different reasons. Here are some:
  • according to their natural breathing
  • to emphasize a particular or words
  • to create tension
  • to change the pace of the poem
The original version of this poem had longer lines and fewer line breaks. I was not completely happy with the outcome. It sounded a bit slow and pedestrian. The theme of my poem is not relaxed along with the focus of the writing, Leon. This made for a mismatch.

In revising the poem, I needed to build more tension and increase the pace for the reader. So, you will notice my poem has quite short lines throughout the entire poem. I did this to create a greater sense of urgency around Leon's story. The poem is loosely based on a childhood memory of a kid I used to know. All our writing is informed by our lives, if we are open to these influences. Writing is just as much about the mud as it is about the flowers.

The Life of Leon

He’s a tough guy, Leon
Attitude locked
Fire in his eyes
Braved hard knocks
Leon’s a cracker
Eyebrow scarred
Dynamite hands
A heart flint hard
On the street
Where dangers lurk
Another kid
Whose dreams don’t work

Here comes Leon
Better scurry
In a hurry

Angry kid
Unwashed hair
Look away
From his mad dog stare
Out of home
On the street
Never quite sure
What’s he got to eat

Struts about
With the craggy crew
High top shoes

Leon’s coming
Rats all scurry
Better hurry

Slaps away
Any helping hand
Zero trust
Anger fanned
He’s got swagger
He’s got sneer
Built a wall around
Inner fears
Violent father
Boozy Mum
Winter nights
Sleep won’t come

There goes Leon
Twelve years old

Fortune’s told


  1. Wow, Alan. Great poem - very poignant. tanks for sharing some of your process, too.

    1. Thank Sally. Felt it was important to share the process as it really changed the entire feel of the poem as I was writing it.

  2. Such a powerful poem. Leon reminds me of some of the students I have taught.

    1. I too am reminded of former students and their challenging circumstances in aspects of Leon's troubled existence Kay. Thanks yet again for your feedback.

  3. Alan, excellent discussion of line breaks. Look at your end word for each line, there is power there. This is a great poem to try bouncing a basketball to. Thank you for sharing this poem that carries a lot of emotion.

    1. I hadn't considered the basketball bouncing connection Joy, so thank you for pointing it out. It does have that kind of rhythm to it. Thank you for the alert and thank you for your response.

  4. The shorter lines definitely ratcheted up the tension for me. Punchy and quick--probably a bit like Leon. That final line is powerfully sad.

    1. Thank you for the affirming response in regard to the shorter lines Molly. I'm pleased the final line impactful.

  5. Alan, you share powerful imagery--
    "Fire in his eyes/
    Braved hard knocks/
    Leon’s a cracker/
    Eyebrow scarred/
    Dynamite hands/
    A heart flint"

    Wow! A vivid picture and the revised line breaks/pace matches the emotion you want to convey. Thank you for sharing this. We all know a Leon.

    1. Indeed, we all know a Leon, Lisa. Glad you appreciated the imagery in the poem. Appreciate your feedback.


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