To separate or not to separate: Stanza boundaries and poetic structure

Barry P. P. Scherr


This article examines two related matters that have heretofore received little attention in the scholarly literature. The first is whether the division into stanzas shown on the page always reflects the thematic and formal structure of the poem. For instance, may 8-line stanzas with a repeated rhyme scheme (such as ababcdcd) in fact represent pairs of quatrains arbitrarily joined together? Conversely, are there cases when a poem written in couplets actually consists of 4-line or 6-line stanzas that have been divided? The second issue is whether a poet’s decision to write verse in which stanzas are not demarcated on the page leads to works that differ in their formal features from those where the stanzas are (as is more typically the case) separated by blank lines. The latter portion of the article shows the effects of this decision in the verse of Aleksandr Kushner.


Russian versification; stanzas; 20th-century Russian poetry; Kushner

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ISSN 2346-6901 (print)
ISSN 2346-691X (online)