In Mimi Khalvati's poem "In Search of the Animals"
(from The Weather Wheel, Carcanet
2014), the speaker looks "at a daylight moon behind drifts / of
cloud" and sees it as "a platinum sun":
a frieze of haunches, heads, ears
evening out, dissolving back to
"Evening", here, is not the noun but the gerund
form of the verb "to even"; this leads the speaker to comment on her
own language and arrive at a line break that takes an idiom and makes it
And look how morning becomes
accidentally, heuristically, in
of language leading us up the
a white rabbit crosses, a badger,
our local fox
"To lead someone up the garden path" is the idiom
here, and before the line break, the sense is clear: "the miracle // of
language" deceives us, plays tricks on us – here, the trick of seeing or
hearing "evening" as a noun when, in context, it is actually a verb.
The relative clause that follows the line break, however, turns "the
garden path" into a literal path that the animals can cross.
generates such a doubling of meaning, from figurative to literal (as here), or
in other cases from general to particular. This particular doubling stands out
because "the garden path" has a third meaning associated with language:
the "garden-path sentence
." Such a sentence sets up a word or phrase
to be read one way but then turns out to require a different reading. And that,
of course, is what happens with examples of enjambment like the one above:
"leading us up the garden path" goes from being figurative to being
literal; it has to be reinterpreted for the two lines to fit together.
particular enjambment provides a general way to think about enjambment: as a "garden
path" effect in which one reading is replaced and often even displaced by
another. The garden-path sentence is further related to the rhetorical figure
, which means "against expectation" – and that is
precisely how enjambment works: it creates an expectation and then adds something that works against that expectation. So enjambment could be seen as a form of paraposdokian.
But more generally, it's the idea that enjambment behaves like a rhetorical
figure that seems useful to me – particularly strikingly so in the case of
Khalvati's poem, where the enjambment involves a figurative expression that is
also a term for a rhetorical figure. Or has the pun just led me, too, up the