Enjambment is a poetic technique where a line extends beyond the point of the line break and wraps around to the next line. For example, these excerpts from Cole Porter lyrics.
In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,
But now, God knows, Anything Goes.
Good authors too who once knew better words,
Now only use four letter words
Writing prose, Anything Goes.
. . .
And though I'm not a great romancer
I know that I'm bound to answer
When you propose, Anything goes
Cole Porter — "Anything Goes
Enjambment charges a moment with energy by breaking the frame and violating expectations.
These bookshelves by Brooklyn architect Mark Rakatansky can be viewed as a case of enjambment in design. The bookshelf appears to extend past its frame and onto the adjacent French door by way of a matching box cleverly mounted in one of the door’s panes (or lights, as designers refer to them). The door can open and close freely.
Drummer Mick Fleetwood makes extensive use of enjambment throughout the song “Dreams.” Crash cymbals are regularly used by drummers to demark a new section or line. Here, however, the song's first cymbal crash comes a beat later than expected. So do many of the downbeats of the choruses, where we expect the crashes to align with the downbeat of the chorus— “Thun-der . . .” The crashes come instead on the second syllable—“Thun-der . . .”
I once had the chance to talk to Mick Fleetwood for a few seconds and I mentioned my love for those fills. “You mean all my dyslexic fills?” he quipped. Yes, the fills disorient, and wonderfully so in a song titled “Dreams.” His enjambments on the drums lend it a surreal quality.
In James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain,” studio-drumming legend Russ Kunkel employs enjambment at various spots. The most mind-blowing instance of it comes in the out-chorus around the 2:50 mark.
If you count along with the song leading up to this point — one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, etc. — you’ll notice how he begins to break the four-count frame with his crash cymbals. He turns the measures around, disrupts, and shatters the container, all of which brings home the idea of a world shattered, the song’s theme.
All of this serves as yet another reminder of the centrality of poetry in the arts and its importance as a source of insight for creators in all other fields.
Thank you for reading.