The power of line breaks

Last week we had a bonus session at Washington! We took a break from our usual routine and got hands on with poems, focusing on revision and line breaks. After reviewing all the different things that line breaks can do (short vs. long lines, slow down/speed up, white space, variety vs. uniformity, end words), we read an unlineated version of Rita Dove’s “Primer” and, in groups, made our own line breaks. At the end of the class, we got to share and admire the different ways “Primer” could look like and why.

Here are some scenes from the day, followed by a finished poem from each class!


Miss Davis
Eighth Grade
Yellow Group


Written by Rita Dove
Line breaks by Katelyn S., Summer M., Tristan D., Dahlila V., and Mia A.

In the sixth grade I was chased home
by the Gatlin kids,
three skinny sisters
in rolled-down bobby socks.
Hissing Brainiac!
and Mrs.
Stringbean!, they trod my heel.
I knew my body was no big deal but
never thought to retort: who’s calling who skinny?
(Besides, I knew they’d beat me up.)
I survived their shoves across the schoolyard
because my
five-foot-zero mother drove up in
her Caddie to shake them down to size.
could get me into that car.
I took the long way home,
swore I’d show
them all: I would grow up.


Miss Davis
Eighth Grade
Red Group


Written by Rita Dove
Line breaks by Mariana R., Karla S., Daniel D., Jazmin M., Alex K., and Joaquin H.


Miss Davis
Eighth Grade
Green Group


Written by Rita Dove
Line breaks by Noemi S., Lisandro G., Natalia M., Adel S., Alex G., and Joshua F.




“Writing poetry makes me feel like I can see myself, like I can see my reflection, but not in a mirror, in the world. I write and I know I can be reflected.”
-Oscar S.

“Writing poetry makes me feel free.”
-Buenda D.

“Writing poetry is like your best friend.”
-Jessica M.