If you really look at it, the only distinction between free verse and a prose poem are line breaks. Yet I often read poems where the line breaks don’t do anything that the syntax of the sentence doesn’t already do on its own. Maybe this is just my pet peeve, but I own it and feel the need to talk about it.
Readers hesitate at commas,
and stop briefly at periods.
They’ll even pause when a phrase finishes
before moving on to the next.
So if the line breaks just echo the pauses and stops already inherent in the text, what’s really the point of writing a poem instead of prose?
When it comes time to revise, I challenge myself to think about the line breaks. Sure, some breaks just come together with the ends of phrases and sentences and effectively reinforce those stopping points. But I also consider how line breaks can offer a counterpoint to my syntax, creating tension between the rhythm of my sentences and the rhythm of my lines.
I’ve been working on this personally, and I think it might be a path to better poetry.