Reining in the high horse

Do you say ‘weep’ ever – except inside a poem?

It’s a word I noticed a lot during the reading window. If you’re a rhyming poet, ‘weep’ has always offered temptation because it goes with sleep and deep and keep. Also ‘weeping’, as a feminine ending, has a deliciously mournful fall to it.

But these days there aren’t so many rhymers. The poets are doing other things. These things include a subconscious (I think) attraction to certain ‘poetic’ words. They tend to turn up towards the end of a poem.

The little word ‘yet’ is one to watch. It often signals a mini-epiphany (‘and yet’), which means the poet may be getting onto her high horse. 

On the other hand, ‘yet’ (meaning ‘but’) may put in an appearance because the poet has already used ‘but’ and needs an alternative.

Alas (and ‘alas’ has gone, except for entirely mock sorrow), poetic technique is tricky. A matter of getting the balance right between deliberate repetition (allowable even on a low horse) and accidental harping on one word too much.

And yet ‘yet’ is allowable, even in contemporary conversational register, in the phrase ‘yet again’, or ‘not yet’. So it’s not the word itself that’s retro: it’s the way it’s used. 

Which brings me to ‘for’.

‘For’ as an ordinary preposition (‘This is for you’) is no problem.

It’ s no problem in a phrase like ‘left for home’ or ‘for the love of Mike’, either. But when you come across ‘for’ meaning ‘because’, you’re back in high-horse territory.

I couldn’t do it here for I would immediately sound odd. (See what I mean?) But it pops up in poems all the time. It’s more convenient than ‘because’, less business-like than ‘since’…

But back to weeping. If you need to weep (in a poem) and don’t want to use the word, what will you do?

I don’t weep at funerals; I cry. But ‘cry’ brings its own problems, for it also means to shout out loud.

‘Whimper’ and or ‘howl’ sounds like a dog.

‘Keen’ is interesting and yet you worry what the person is actually doing.

‘Snivel’ is a person who doesn’t have a hanky, and ‘sob’ is certainly emotive though it sounds blobby.

‘Tear up’ is modern, unless you read the word wrong and visualise shredded paper.

In Scotland, we have the word ‘grete’ for weeping but alas it can get confused with the English ‘hello’, forbye. 

On balance, weeping in poems is not such a great idea. Though obviously if the reader weeps, it’s quite another matter.


On windows and stacking

Yes, it’s a new year but I’m still reading poems from the old window.

If you happen to be wondering why you sent yours in early December and haven’t had a reply (I am usually pretty quick) it’s because it all went wrong. I did manage the first few as usual, day by day, but quickly I gave up. The pressure of work, as they say, pressed in a pressurised fashion, and I had to start stacking. 

Poem stacking is not difficult. Much easier than logs. So the stack didn’t actually topple for a while, at which point I carried it upstairs. Then all that seasonal stuff got in the way. (Try reading poems and wrapping parcels at the same time).

The people I returned poems to in early December returned emails to me. The emails were already out of control so I started a second stack: the poems that had been replied to. But I didn’t post them, and I still haven’t posted them so as not to attract more emails, until I have time to read emails again.

The ‘replied to’ stack is now slightly higher than the ‘waiting to be read stack’.

Soon they will all go into the post at the same time, but not for at least another week because you can’t rush this stuff. Peoples’ lives are in those envelopes. Lives on hold.

So the reading continues. If yours was one of the under-stamped envelopes, it will come back to you, because I haven’t been to the sorting office and offered to pay for them. It does cost a ridiculous amount to send a large letter envelope these days and many of us have still not caught up with that.

If yours was one of the special delivery envelopes for which the postie hammered at the door and woke me up, I forgive you. But please don’t do that again. An ordinary delivery works perfectly fine, and if you choose ‘signed for’ the postie just ignores it anyway.

So here’s a brief review of the preoccupations this time round — half way through the stack.

♦ Most frequently occurring animal: the horse. 

♦ Most frequent grammatical things that bug me: ‘lay’ instead of ‘lie’ (I blame Bob Dylan) and ‘were stood’ instead of ‘were standing’ or ‘was sat’ instead of ‘was sitting’ (probably his fault too).

♦ Most frequent poem type: the journey, punctuated by imperatives (turn right, go past the post office).

♦ Most frequent poem structure: the Now and two stanzas later Then poem. Or vice versa.

♦ So many leaning verbs I begin to worry that I’ve made the phenomenon worse. And I’m noticing another thing: the two leaning nouns in the last line, something like this:

We have no other way of attracting
the horses and so we arrive with
our hands full of marshmallows, buttercups.

♦ Using line breaks to substitute for commas (I wrote about this not that long ago and now I can’t find which blog it’s in) while having other line breaks across an enjambed phrase, so the reader starts not to know quite how to read safely without falling off the edge. 

I feel unreasonable a lot of the time, and when it comes to punctuation, I get what my mother used to call ‘fratchetty’. Why on earth should semi-colons affect me like the rhinoceros and his skin. Give me simple punctuation and I’ll rest easy. 

But really I’m living the life of Riley. There are numerous delights, but each is individual. It’s like the Tolstoy thing about all happy families being alike but unhappy ones being unhappy in their own way; except not. A good poem is uniquely happy, but lots of poems are made unhappy in exactly the same way.

(Riley is living my life, but he’s not very keen on it and wants to go home. And yes, I know I used a semi-colon. Grrrr.)




Blogging about Snagging

How long does it take to snag a poem? 

Or even just read one. I read an awful lot of them, in book, fast. But that’s not reading properly.

But during the reading window (which is now shut and bolted, though various envelopes are still hurtling themselves against it) I read properly, and I snag as I go.

Ok – in any set, I admit I start with the shortest. I look at the shape on the page, and sometimes at the shapes of the rest in the group. Already there’s a personal aesthetic. I like the look of some better than others. Some look easy to read. Some look like hard work. I have never much liked long and thin, and I worry about centred. 

But I try not to let personal taste get in the way – even though it can’t be denied. I read slowly, from beginning to end. This is the snagging stage. The poet has built the poem – often in neat chunks and short lines. I am moving slowly through to see whether there’s a clear run; to see whether I can make my way from start to finish without falling over an obstruction.

Often I do meet obstructions. It’s usually something like a noun that could be a verb – such as the words ‘shock’ or ‘fall’, for example. And the line break may create uncertainty what the word’s function could be. The poet knows, of course, where the sentence is going, but the reader doesn’t.

And there’s the business of punctuation. If it’s present, and it’s working correctly, you shouldn’t even notice it. If you start to notice it – if I start to put pencil rings round the semi-colons – it’s a snag.

Using line-breaks to substitute for commas can be an issue. If you have a lot of enjambment – lines where the sense runs smoothly right over the line end and into the next – you rely on the reader sensing that easily. But if you mix those lovely enjambed lines with lines where the line end represents a pause (but you miss out the comma), you create confusion.

Some people miss all the punctuation out. If you do this, your structure on the page – line breaks and indents and gaps, or whatever you do to organise the sense – has to work smoothly. And it can. But it doesn’t always.

Sometimes a snag – for me – is a word I don’t know – though I count this as a Good Snag. ‘Parkour’ was a new word I learned in July. So I stop reading and go online to Merriam Webster. It’s the same with references to paintings, music, or famous people. I have to look them up, and usually I do, unless it’s the fifth reference in an hour, in which case I just note what I don’t know.

I get tied up with imagery too. Decades of reading poetry has made me into a literalist. So I get the metaphorical application pretty well, but at the same time I log it literally. If you tell me love is like riding a bicycle, I’m ok, I can see you rolling merrily down the street. But if I find you, on the next line, washed up on the shores of a stormy river, I’m wondering what happened to the bike.

I am adjective-averse, and it’s getting worse. Sometimes there are a lot. Sometimes every single noun has an adjective (or two) to help it on its way. But – trust me – they start to cancel each other out.

It’s the poet’s job to sort out the snags, but often we can’t see our own. It takes another reader. So that’s all I am really. A snagging expert. Or that’s what I am at first.

If the snags are serious, I limit my feedback to snags alone. Because until they’re sorted out, the real work of the poem can’t begin.

If there are no snags, I read the poem two or three times more. I decide what I’m picking up at a literal and intuitive level. And then I write a response. Sometimes I just think it works. Some poems do what they set out to do. A pleasure to read – and it doesn’t always have to be deep stuff. It can be small. It can be ephemeral.

But I read poetry in a peculiar way. I can only describe it as like swimming breast-stroke while wearing goggles, where I’m seeing both above and below the water as I progress. The above and below views don’t quite match but that’s as it should be. I’m picking up on stuff. Trying to get the feel, and the tone, and the possible symbols. Whether it’s personal or theoretical, funny or tragic.

Some poems are strong writing. You know it when you hit it. You don’t even have to like it. You just know you’ve read something that works on its own terms. Often these poems will have a detail that you remember for the rest of the day. A reflection in a polished plate. A view of three ships through a window. 

Most poems are a mixture: good bits, best bits, weak bits, straggly bits. An awful lot of poems have a poem inside them trying to get out.

How long does it take to read a poem? It takes me at least five minutes for a short one, and up to 15 if it’s more complicated. I probably average 8-10 minutes per poem when I’m giving some feedback, and then I write each person a note too – and some of the notes are long.

In July I read around 1000 poems. It took a long time. If I include the notes and finding of envelopes for those who forgot them, I reckon around 130 hours. I like doing it, and I think it’s important. For me, it isn’t about looking for new poets to publish. It’s about being part of this thing we do, whatever it is, this poetry writing thing.

By the end of the month, I was tired. It’s like the opposite of PoWriMo – what I do is PoReadMo, twice a year.

But after July ended, envelopes kept arriving. Another one yesterday. Please don’t send any more!

I have moved over to a different kind of work now. It’s upstairs, not downstairs like the window weeks, and it involves writing and typesetting and publicity for books (watch this space). So there’s no time for reading more poems, except the ones I’m putting in books – which takes even longer. 

The next window opens in December. Brrrrrrr.





The shortest day. Losing the plotamus.


No, not really. That was just to get your attention. Well, it was the shortest day yesterday – but also an absolute beauty in this neck of the woods. Bright, brilliant sunshine and December gleaming for all it was worth.

But someone probably noticed I didn’t blog last week. This was because I had disappeared under the mountain of tasks, partly a result of Christmas, and partly Other Things.

Meanwhile, the submission envelopes were stacking up alarmingly, and arriving faster than I could open them. In the middle of all the December mayhem, it’s calming to sit and read poems from real people. But it’s been hard getting proper time to do that.  I’m one of those people who slows down if pressure builds up. I slow down and go on longer, and dream about hippopotami (at least I did last night).

And although – yes – I do love poetry and language and all that stuff, I’m also endlessly analytical. I’ve never understood why I write what I call ‘poems’, let alone anyone else. So I constantly try to work out what’s going on and how it’s happening in the here and now, which is different from any other time as well as similar to every other time.b2ap3_thumbnail_PILE-OF-MS.jpg

In last year’s December window, 77 sets of poems arrived. This year, so far, there have been 115 by post and 7 electronically, because the new online sub allows people to send up to 5 by email.

However, the online sub is now in a dodgy situation because of a new European Union VAT rule that comes into place in January. This requires the seller (me) to apply the VAT of the home country of the buyer to any digital sale. And then, obviously, to pay the appropriate sum to the tax revenue agents of the requisite country, thus making the small amount of income even smaller, and the time required to do it even greater. Insane.

But that’s just more plodding for the hippopotamiss. Meanwhile, I’m reading the poems people have sent. I was a bit worried that the online people would try to discuss the feedback with me – by email. I can’t do that because I don’t have time, even though if I were the poet, I know I would feel I wanted to explain what the sixteenth stanza meant too. But most of the poets have been admirably restrained.

Back to the postal ones, which are still arriving. And the reading.

I’m interested in the forms and shapes. It’s what I see first. What shape the poem is on the page. I flick through the set. If they’re all similar in appearance, I wonder if the poet writes all her poems that shape. To me, the shape of the poem is part of the form of the poem, which is (if the thing is a humdinger) inextricably tied up with what the poem is saying/meaning. This indefinable business of it all coming together is part of the magic. If it works, it’s astounding. And rare.

When poems are divided up into neat chunks: couplets or triplets or quatrains, that’s okay. It looks nice. It looks like a pattern, and I like patterns. If I get to the third stanza and find myself wondering why the poem’s in quatrains, it usually means it hasn’t ‘hooked’ me. Because although I am, self-confessedly, analytical, I know I’m not supposed to be analysing the stanza format while reading.

Similarly, I hate the way I go on about sentence structure or syntax. I really do. But often I get lost in the opening sentence by line three. This can happen for all sorts of reasons, not least using a sequence of words in which each one could, for a moment, be either a noun or a verb or an adjective. Something like this:

Frost walks break, cooling, and again

seasons hope open before the wheelbarrow
that peril jacks here catching all the attention! Oh I know
confusion purposes this.

Of course that was an extreme example because anyone would find it confusing. But you see my point. When you read ‘Frost walks break’, you’re not sure whether ‘walks’ or ‘break’ is the verb. Same with ‘hope’ and ‘open’.

I often draw attention to a difficulty in finding a finite verb. Oh hopping hippopotami – what is this, an English lesson? Using the term ‘finite verb’ is a short cut. I mean the bit of the verb that’s clearly attached to the subject of the sentence, the bit that completes a statement. Verb = doing/being word, right? With a finite verb, the doing/being gets done. With bits of verbs, like participles, the doing isn’t finished so you get a sentence fragment, or non-grammatical sentence. Like this:

Moving into the sun again, and coming
back and not knowing, even then, which
way the sun, the
setting sun, the falling sun.

There’s no finite verb in that group of lines. This doesn’t mean the lines are wrong. It means there’s an interesting, displaced, floating effect. No finite verb means no position in time. I could put a finite verb in, of course, and everything would change, though not necessarily for the better:

Moving into the sun again, and coming
back and not knowing, even then, which
way the sun, the
setting sun, the falling sun was going.

All the same, when reading the second version, you feel you (sort of) know where you are. You’re in the past, for a start, even though the action is fluid. But in that first sentence, the lack of a finite verb is more taxing for the reader. And that’s without even mentioning the line breaks.

Line breaks are just another poetry trick. They can accomplish all sorts of things and this is part of the fun. But they’re also little barriers, positioned deliberately. They create tiny hitches in the rhythm, or the sense, or the flow of meaning. If those tiny hitches become major snags – because you can’t see where the central thread’s going – that’s a problem, unless the poem is (in some sense or other) about confusion. Which, just to confuse the hippopotamuse further, it might be.

There are poems that manage one single sentence across three six-line stanzas. Gerry Cambridge has just sent a beauty on his Christmas card. When this works (as it did in Gerry’s case) it is a joy. In such an instance the reader glides securely through the poem like a skier in perfect snow, and then goes back and does the whole thing again. And again. Just for the pleasure of it.

But so often it doesn’t work. Many poets seem afraid to write short sentences. I suspect there’s an unconscious sense that poems shouldn’t seem easy. If they were easy to understand at first reading, would they be poems?

Well, yes. They might well be poems. Poems can do anything. Short, long, convoluted, crazy.

On balance, though, I think it’s good to keep the reader with you, at least until she gets to the end. If she falls off her skis in the middle, she may never get back on. Or she may get onto a different poem.

In my perilous feedback to poets, I’ve been doing the usual thing of drawing attention to ‘leaning verbs’, because their proliferation is still astonishing. I was amused to see the ‘Blind Criticism’ example in this month’s issue of The North has one at the very end, which puts the author (I won’t give her away) smartly into the contemp-po box. And you can see it isn’t a bad thing. But there’s something familiar about it. It’s not, to my mind, the best thing. Because the best thing is not quite like anything you’ve read before.

It’s also possible that I’m losing it. Yes, plot lost. Hippoplotamus lostus. If you read a huge quantity of poems, you can’t miss the recurring trends. You can’t fail to see how often the word ‘heft’ pops up. Poor ‘heft’. Used as a verb, it was once singular and different. Not now. Lottaheftamus.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Hippopotamus_001.jpgAnd the number of poems that follow the ‘then’ and ‘but now’ format! And the number of lines beginning with my least favourite word,‘as’. Not to mention the ubiquity of ‘we were stood’ or ‘we were satamus’, which causes me physical pain.

Sometimes I think it’s a good thing to be exquisitely sensitive to language and phrasing. Sometimes I know it’s not.

Here’s the list of contemp-po features that have been smacking me in the eye over the last ten days. I’ve modified a little since the last time round, where there was more illustration of the last two, so if you want to know more about what I meant, follow the link:

  • lots of‘I’ plus present tense: ‘I see’ and ‘I watch’ and ‘I think
  • disappearing subjects (verb with no ‘I’ or ‘he’ or ‘you’)
  • poems in couplets
  • entire poem based on one metaphor (sometimes it works)
  • over-mixed metaphor (crossed logics)
  • death by adjectives
  • a lot of cross-stanza enjambment
  • colons, semi-colons and dashes that don’t (for me) do much
  • long sentences that lose the reader
  • multiple statements lacking finite verbs
  • sentences or stanzas starting ‘And’ and ‘But’
  • first few lines dead (no bite) or hard to follow
  • titles with a witty (?) double meaning
  • title steals thunder of the best (last?) line or phrase
  • numerous ‘as’ sentences (see blog 26.05.2011)
  • anaphora structure (eg each line begins ‘because’)
  • the last word of the last line is ‘love’
  • the word ‘yet’ flags an epiphany (resist! resist!)
  • the word ‘for’ meaning ‘because’
  • then, followed a few lines later by suddenly (regrettable in prose, let alone poetry)
  • perplexing line breaks, which is nearly but not quite as bad as
  • line breaks on ‘significant’ word like ‘break’ or ‘turn’ or ‘over’
  • a rhyme at, or very near, the end, but none anywhere else
  • no punctuation, and then some suddenly arrives
  • the ‘leaning verb thing’
  • the ‘how’ and ‘the way’ clause repetition
  • line breaks sometimes serves as a pause (no comma) but other line breaks are enjambed so the line break isn’t a pause at all and it all gets . . . difficult
  • poems that only fit comfortably on a page at least A4 in size
  • ‘I was sat under a tree’; ‘we were stood by the bar’—contemporary usage that works conversationally but sits uneasily in formal writing (so sez Nellie and see OxfordWords blog on this)
  • scant awareness of assonance – one of the best tricks in the book. Maybe even the best.

Back to the envelopes now. Oh, one last word. Some nice people have deferred sending poems, they tell me, because they don’t want me to be overburdened. But theirs could be the ones I would like most. I know I can’t keep this up forever. By next December, there may not be a window at all. So send them now while the hippo muse is still (relatively) amusing and before the postamus crumbles. Hip, hip, hurrotamus!



In December, there were 77 submissions or, in the end, 76, because one turned out to be the same one twice.

Reading and responding took all of January, between completing Chapter 7, designing new flyers and negotiating with the bank. The standard of the poetry inside the envelopes was horribly good. Horribly, because the likelihood of my offering to do a publication becomes more and more evanescent, even for good poets. I can only do so many.

Some poets make their first approach with little awareness of how it does (or doesn’t) work. It’s not their fault. A well-known poet has recommended they approach me (they will tell me who this person is) and they hope the endorsement will make a difference. It doesn’t make a difference.

I read each submission carefully and write things in pencil on and around the poems. As time goes on, I get less polite. I know I’m dispensing liberal doses of disappointment. Who wants to be a professional disappointer? The awful truth is that what I really want them to do is buy the poetry I have already published, not give me more of the stuff to market and sell. (It is so hard selling poetry. They have no idea.)

And yet, I love the poetry I have published. I really do. My enthusiasm isn’t feigned. Who would not want more things to love?

So I read the poems. Do I love what’s in front of me? How much do I love it? Do I love it enough to add it to the already impossible challenge in front of me?

Probably not. It’s the same for everyone who reads poetry. For every poem you love and copy out, there are hundreds you can live without.

Even as I scribble insults about the poem’s punctuation, sentence structure, mixed metaphor and line breaks, I know my view is just one view. But it’s a very particular one. Out of all the new submissions, I may offer to do a publication for one. I can’t afford, in time or money, more than that. (I can’t even afford that.) It has to be one that’s not only strong, but also as different as possible from anything I’ve done before.

And still there are a whole set of people here with individual poems I like very much. I’m glad to read them. In response to some of them, I could write pages, although lack of time prevents that. I hope some of my responses may prove useful to these people and perhaps win them opportunities elsewhere (the pamphlet competitions are useful in developing sets of strong work, I think, irrespective of winning).

The breakdown this year was as follows:

Already HappenStance subscribers, so know at least a bit about the press


First submission

Currently working on a promised publication, so sending poems towards that

Second, third or more approach (this normally means I have been encouraging)



45 (c 60%)







Number of new firm offers made: 1.

Not everyone makes an approach hoping I’ll do a pamphlet (it helps to know people’s ambitions). Some just send a dozen poems for feedback, which is fine. Many of them are now wonderfully professional: they have read the submission guidelines and followed them, and the dos and don’ts, so there are no immediate barriers.

So far, I’ve published more men than women, and I would like to change that. However, I getmore poems from women than men. I don’t know what conclusion to draw about this.

I don’t make publication offers on first submission. I might express an interest or a strong interest. Sometimes I tell poets they’re so good they don’t need me: they should be winning a competition outright. Some of them go on to do just that. It helps if people know my antipathy for villanelles, sestinas, pantoums, ekphrastic poems, ‘after’ poems, and dedications.

I am presentation-sensitive. I prefer single spacing (it’s in the guidelines). I prefer a size of font similar to what I would put in a pamphlet (roughly a 12 in Word) so I can visualize the poem on a page. I like the name and address of the author on each sheet. I expect the font to be consistent: all 12 poems same font and same size. (Often poets present their work dramatically differently from page to page.)

Some poets have interestingly graphical pieces with elaborate spacing patterns and designs. Mainly they present these on an A4 sheet, forgetting that books or pamphlets work to A5 (some presses use a larger format; this one doesn’t).

Increasingly, I have submissions from poets who have just finished, or are in process of finishing, MLitts or PhDs, for which they have completed a set of poems. These have been praised and now they want to publish them. Oh dear. I would look at a set of poems differently were I assessing the achievement for that particular person than I would when considering them for publication. Getting things published is not the same as writing them well. Writing them well comes first – of course it does – but after that, there’s more. Have any of the poems appeared in good quality magazines? (I expect this.) Has the poet started to build a readership? (I don’t mean their tutors or fellow students.) Has the person thought carefully about pamphlet publications and how they work? Why does the person want to be published at all?

And so I go on to dispense various kinds of disappointment. I am increasingly nervous of the phenomenon I call ‘Contemp Po’ and so I flag it when I see it. Every age has its own Contemp Po features, tricks that seem innovative at the time but quickly become passé. We absorb these features unconsciously. (Every age also has poetry that is timeless: it could work in any age and for any reader.)

When we write poetry, we instinctively reach for something that makes it not prose, a register or a method that confirms for us: This is a Poem. Some people find it in formal conventions (rhyme and metre); others find it in a particular rhythmic vernacular (writing in Scots, or a local dialect). There are many ways.

The ‘line break’ is the major indicator of ‘poem’ for those writing free-ish verse, but line break alone is unlikely to suffice. Sensitivity to sound patterns is just as important. By this I mean assonance (vowel sounds echoing each other), and also the sound trail through vowels and consonants. I don’t want to make this technical, but in the simplest sense, the lines don’t always sound ‘right’, whatever ‘right’ is for that particular poem.

Sound is not everything. There are deaf poets who write beautifully. But they become attuned to something else, some other features that make the text ‘poem’ and not ‘prose’. And besides, deaf people hear through their feet, fingers and toes: rhythm patterns apply.

Here are the recurring Contemp Po features I notice most. I flagged these in a last time round but I have added a couple, as well as an example at the end of the How and The Way feature (new!):

Features of Contemp Po

  • lots of ‘I see’ and ‘I watch’ and ‘I feel’ and, worst of all, ‘I think
  • disappearing subjects (verb with no ‘I’)
  • lots of poems in couplets
  • ‘arty’ layouts , space instead of punctuation
  • poems based on extended metaphor (sometimes it works)
  • over-mixed metaphor (over-wrought, crossed logics)
  • a lot of cross-stanza enjambment
  • numerous colons and semi-colons.
  • poem a single sentence which gets lost in the middle
  • poem based round clauses with no finite verbs
  • sentences starting ‘And’ and ‘But’
  • first few lines dead (no bite)
  • title steals thunder of the best (last?) line or phrase
  • disappearing articles (‘the’ and ‘a’)
  • many ‘as’ sentences (see blog 26.05.2011)
  • poems constructed round a set of imperatives
  • anaphora structure (eg each line begins ‘because’)
  • the last word of the last line is ‘love’
  • the word ‘yet’ flags an epiphany (resist! resist!)
  • the word ‘for’ meaning ‘because’
  • lots of thens, followed by suddenly
  • weird line breaks
  • a rhyme at, or very near, the end
  • line breaks on ‘significant’ word like ‘break’—see above
  • no punctuation, and then some suddenly arrives
  • the ‘leaning verb thing’ (see below)
  • the ‘how’ and ‘the way’ clause repetition (see below)

The leaning verb thing:
There’s a tendency to write lines where two or more verb clauses are each appended to the same subject, often towards the high point. This is now as ubiquitous as scattered ampersands were in the sixties. For example:

 She reaches for her pen, scribbles a few lines,  
wonders why the world hasn’t colluded, hasn’t collapsed.

 The ‘how’ and ‘the way’ thing
Here’s another regular pattern. In fact, the pattern can be useful until it starts to look mannered. It may one day look as mannered as ‘up and spak an eldern knicht’ and ‘o’er the wall the sun doth sink’:

He saw and took note. How she touched each leaf
on the trailing vine. How she stopped a second
beside the stair. How the light on her hair
glimmered. And later the way she paused
outside the greenhouse. The way she held
the key lightly, like a talisman. The way
she turned it slowly in the lock