What Is A Caesura In Poetry

What is a caesura in Poetry?

Caesura is a poetic device used to create a pause in a line of poetry. It can be used to create emphasis or to control the natural rhythm of the poem. In poetry, a caesura can also be used to create an unexpected interruption in the flow of language. It is used to add tension and feeling to a line of poetry.

Definition of Caesura

A caesura is a break found in a line of poetry, usually in the middle of a line or phrase. This break can be done with a punctuation mark such as a comma, semicolon, or period or by lengthening or shortening the preceding vowel. The placement of these pauses is often determined by the cadence and meter of the poem.

Types of Caesura

In poetry, there are two main types of caesura. The first type is called a masculine caesura. This type of caesura occurs when the pause in a line is found before the last syllable in the line. The second type of caesura is a feminine caesura and it happens when the pause occurs after the last syllable of the line.

Why is a Caesura Used in Poetry?

A caesura is used in poetry to add emphasis to a line or phrase and to create a sense of tension. By breaking up standard poetic phrasing, a caesura changes the rhythm of the poem and creates a sense of anticipation for what comes next. It can also add depth to the meaning of the poem. Additionally, caesuras can be used as a bridge between ideas or phrases in a poem, allowing for a more seamless transition.

Examples of Caesura in Poetry

An example of a masculine caesura can be found in the poem “The Ballad of Chevy Chase” by Lord Byron. In the third line of the poem, the poet uses the pause in the middle of the line to add emphasis. The poem reads: “But long ere they came so nigh —alarm!” The caesura is used to convey the sense of urgency, as the pause creates a sense of anticipation for the line that follows.
Another example of a feminine caesura can be found in the poem “Portrait in a Mirror” by Wallace Stevens. The poem reads:” There was no one there, no one at all; a glass, and in the glass a face.” Here the caesura is found at the end of the second line and serves to emphasize the idea of solitude.

Benefits of Using a Caesura in Poetry

Using a caesura in poetry is an effective way to emphasize a particular thought, phrase or emotion. Additionally, it can also be used to create a sense of anticipation or suspense, allowing the poem to retain its readability. Further, caesuras can also be used to transition between different ideas in a poem.

Criticisms of Using a Caesura in Poetry

One of the main criticisms of using a caesura in poetry is that it can be used too frequently or too obviously, making the poem feel forced. Additionally, some critics argue that caesuras can detract from a poem’s overall flow, making it disjointed or confusing.

Caesura as a Literary Tool

A caesura is a powerful literary tool that can be used to alter the rhythm and meaning of a poem. By strategically placing pauses in poems, a poet can increase the impact of their words, emphasize certain ideas, and create a more enjoyable reading experience for their readers.


In conclusion, the caesura is an important tool for poets to consider when creating their works of art. By strategically manipulating the line breaks and pauses in their poetry, poets can emphasize certain words and phrases, and add depth and meaning to their work. Understanding the power of the caesura and learning how to harness it effectively can prove to be incredibly beneficial for poets.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

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