Writing Poetry: Free Verse


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Thread: Writing Poetry: Free Verse

  1. #1

    Writing Poetry: Free Verse

    Writing Poetry: Free Verse


    "(In free verse) the words are more poised than in prose." Louis MacNeice


    The term "free verse" is a literal translation of "vers libre." Edward Hirsch describes it as, "a poetry of organic rhythms, of deliberate irregularity (244)." Though its history dates to early English versions of the bible, free verse gained popularity among poets in the early 20th century as a reaction to and a rejection of the formal verse forms popular in Victorian society. Further, free verse was a refusal of the stilted voice lacking human tonality that came to characterize formal verse.


    In "The Book of Forms" Lewis Turco explains free verse thusly, "If "verse" is defined as "metered language" and "prose" as "unmetered language" then the term "free verse" is a contradiction in terms because "verse" cannot be "free" for it is "metered." The only other possibility, then, is that "free verse" is "prose" broken into lines by some means or another . . . many poems written in such prosodies . . . such as podics, syllabics, and so forth, might be called "free verse" by people who do not recognize those prosodies as verse systems (189)." However, Turco's definitions and analysis is an over-simplification of the free verse form. As Michael Bugeja says, "unfortunately, the words that make up the term "free verse" suggest a kind of poetry that lacks distinctive form or tradition (270)."


    Indeed the term "free verse" more closely follows the root of the word verse which is "vertere" meaning "to turn." Free verse is poetry which relies not on the metronome quality of meter but on the "non-metrical writing that takes pleasure in a various and emergent verbal music (Hirsch 244)." Rhythm in free verse is often inspired by the natural by the cadence and natural patterns of spoken language. Free verse possesses physical form that employs the visual presentation of lines to differentiate itself from prose.


    The freedom of free verse is in the determination of how and when to break the line. The break may be determined in nearly any way and lines may be presented on the page in almost any fashion. This gives significance to the ways in which the lines vary. This variance can, and should, inform and reinforce the meaning of the poem.


    When writing free verse it is important to remember the concepts of poetic structure. Michael Bugeja says, "In general, more structure results in better poems; less structure approaches prose (272)." While free verse, unlike formal verse whose structure is dictated by the form, allows the poet to determine the structure of a poem. The poem should still conform to other basic poetic ideals such as idea, voice, line, and stanza. Other rhythmic and sonic qualities such as assonance, alliteration, and rhyme are useful but not necessary in free verse. Free verse occurs in many forms, all of which are non-metrical.


    Ultimately free verse is a firm based on control--the poet must control the elements of the free verse poem. Jim Barnes states, "No poem exists without form. Anyone writing with no regard to structure is writing prose (not free verse!), and most likely had prose at that . . . There are cadences, rhythms, echoes that poets have to control. They cannot be controlled by them, or prose will take over (Bugeja 274)."


    Overall, the things to remember with free verse is that it is non-metrical, non-formal, and utilizes it's form to inform meaning. Free verse structure (with other poetic elements) is what differentiates it from prose. And, finally, it is not the poem's form that controls the poem's structure but the poet.


    Happy writing!




    ---------------------


    Works Cited


    Bugeja, Michael. The Art and Craft of Poetry. Writer's Digest, 1994.


    Hirsch, Edward. Poet's Glossary. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.


    Hollander, John. Rhyme's Reason. 1981. Courier Stoughton Inc., 1989.


    Turco, Lewis. The Book of Forms. 3rd ed., University Press of New England. 2000.

  2. #2
    and that it why i prefer free poetry....
    The only one who can heal you is you.




  3. #3
    My thumbs hurt. I typed it all up on my phone.

  4. #4
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    I love free verse.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by CrimsonAngel223 View Post
    I love free verse.

    This month's Pip challenge is free verse, hope to see you enter, CrimsonAngel.... welcome to fabulous WF!
    She lost herself in the trees,
    among the ever-changing leaves.
    She wept beneath the wild sky
    as stars told stories of ancient times.
    The flowers grew toward her light,
    the river called her name at night.
    She could not live an ordinary life,
    with the mysteries of the universe
    hidden in her eyes....
    Author: Christy Ann Martine

    Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
    love leaves a memory no one can steal....
    Author unknown.

  6. #6
    I think my issue with free verse is that one has to pay so much more attention to everything. Because suddenly it goes beyond the shape of a line or a stanza to the shape of the piece as a whole. It's the difference between matching a pair of socks and putting together an outfit.
    Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.
    Robert G. Allen

  7. #7
    I can appreciate that sentiment, Annie. I wasn't a huge fan of free verse either until I wrote this. It has given me a new appreciation of the form.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by amsawtell View Post
    I can appreciate that sentiment, Annie. I wasn't a huge fan of free verse either until I wrote this. It has given me a new appreciation of the form.


    William Carlos Williams said " being an art form, verse cannot be free in the sense of having no limitations or guiding principles"... There really IS a method to the madness of free verse.
    JMO, but because free verse does NOT rely on rhyme schemes, the poet has to work harder to make the poem flow and sound beautiful and lyrical...
    Read The Book of Psalms, in the Bible... everyone has read the 23rd psalm, [hopefully] "The Lord is my shepherd... ect... beautiful example of free verse...
    She lost herself in the trees,
    among the ever-changing leaves.
    She wept beneath the wild sky
    as stars told stories of ancient times.
    The flowers grew toward her light,
    the river called her name at night.
    She could not live an ordinary life,
    with the mysteries of the universe
    hidden in her eyes....
    Author: Christy Ann Martine

    Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
    love leaves a memory no one can steal....
    Author unknown.

  9. #9
    It's more that it doesn't have a defined meter that makes it harder to make free verse flow.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by amsawtell View Post
    It's more that it doesn't have a defined meter that makes it harder to make free verse flow.
    .



    Some free verse poets rely on "cadence",, what IS cadence? So glad you asked Cadence is a rhythmic FLOW of a sequence of words or sounds.. but when used in free verse, a rhythmic pattern that is non metrically structured ...
    She lost herself in the trees,
    among the ever-changing leaves.
    She wept beneath the wild sky
    as stars told stories of ancient times.
    The flowers grew toward her light,
    the river called her name at night.
    She could not live an ordinary life,
    with the mysteries of the universe
    hidden in her eyes....
    Author: Christy Ann Martine

    Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
    love leaves a memory no one can steal....
    Author unknown.

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