What is Enjambment?

What is enjambment? Or, if you prefer, what is ‘enjambement’, or, if you prefer another, what is a ‘run-on line’? These three terms – enjambment, enjambement, and run-on lines – are all used to refer to the same thing, which is when a poet carries over a sentence from one line of verse to the next, rather than pausing at the end of the verse line. The best way to understand enjambment and why it is useful for poetry is to examine a few examples, so that’s what this introduction to the term will do. But before we go any further, here’s a question for you that’s fraught with peril, which the great critic Sir Christopher Ricks likes to ask: what’s the opening line of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land? We’ll return to this question at the end of this article.

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