White Space in Poetry

Poetry, in many ways, is more creatively freeing than prose.  Grammar isn't set.  It doesn't have to have a plot or even make sense.  Right alignment for a collection?  Sure!

White space (the parts of the page without words) is important in poetry.  It tells a reader where larger pauses are needed (stanza breaks, extra space between words).  It can enhance/reflect subject matter (a poem about absence having barren swaths of paper).  It can even showcase mood.
But lots of poets use white space wrong (though most offenders aren't necessarily beginners). 

It shouldn't be used to artificially lengthen a work.  Poems don't have to be epics to make an impression.  If a bigger payment from a literary magazine is the goal, the ones paying for poems per line (most don't) don't generally count blank lines.

Some poets think odd spacing makes a piece avant-garde and, while it can be used to experiment, randomly chopping up lines and flinging them willy-nilly on the page doesn't make anything edgy or interesting.  There should always be some coherent reason for the positions of words, even if the reason isn't apparent to readers.

A handful of poets are guilty of using white space to give a false sense of variation.  Instead of attempts at different forms or subjects (or different angles on a subject), these scribes chop up or stretch out works they've completed multiple times.  They are either afraid, too in love with one particular idea, or are in a serious rut.
Remember poets and poetry-lovers:  The poem should be benefited by the form, not brutalized to fit it.

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