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In the 3rd and 4th stanzas of the poem "Postcard from Kashmir" by Agha Shahid Ali, why does the poet break the line into more than one? Postcard from Kashmir Agha Shahid Ali Kashmir shrinks into my mailbox,my home a neat four by six inches. I always loved neatness. Now I holdthe half-inch Himalayas in my hand. This is home. And this the closestI'll ever be to home. When I return,the colors won't be so brilliant,the Jhelum's waters so clean,so ultramarine. My loveso overexposed. And my memory will be a littleout of focus, it ina giant negative, blackand white, still undeveloped. In the 3rd and 4th stanza of the above poem, the poet breaks the line into more than one. What might be the reason? Is it to 1. make a visual shape of his mental image 2. force the reader to read some of the specific phrases. 3 convenient for reading or something else .

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kshufford29 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There could be a variety of reasons why Ali chose to use enjambment in the third and fourth stanzas of "Postcard from Kashmir." Out of your three choices, the least likely is three. Enjambment is a literary device used in poetry that affects the flow of the piece and the words/phrases that are focused on. Hardly ever will a poet use it to make reading "convenient."

The second option is the most likely: force the reader to notice specific phrases. Enjambment is a good technique to use when you do not want to use bold or italics for emphasis. Because of the natural pause that arises when you finish a line of a poem before moving on to the next, the reader is left focusing on the last phrase or word of that line. For example:

This is home. And this the closest
I'll ever be to home. When I return,

The sentence continues to the third line, but let us focus on these two lines. The first line emphasizes the word "closest" because of where Ali broke the sentence and created a new line. The reader is focused to feel the emotion left hanging by the first line and embrace the importance of that feeling in the context of the poem.

Your first option, a visual representation, could be correct for some poems. However, in Ali's case, there is not really a shape to be made. That said, even though it is not the best choice, enjambment is a technique that is also used to make a poem more visually appealing on the page. Although it is not being used in Ali's case to create a shape, it is used to prevent long lines from extending from one side of the page to the other.

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lprono eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The breaking of the lines into more than one is called in the technical terms of literary criticism either "enjambement" (a French word used in English) or "run-on line". An enjambement splits the sytanctic unit so that the last syllable of the line does not correspond with the grammatical break. The line and thus its meaning overflow into the next one. The effect on the reader is to communicate the emotional flowing of the speaker's thoughts and to convey his nostalgia for a place where he will not return in the near future. Although the speaker would like to return to his Kashmir home, he can only see it reproduced on a postcard. He is just as torn apart from it as words are torn apart from each other in the poem. The syncopated rhythm of the last two stanzas makes the thoughts of the poet appear "out of focus" and in that quick succession typical of highly emotional state of minds.

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