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What are Free Verse Poems

By Alice T Breeze. Updated: January 20, 2017
What are Free Verse Poems

Though poetry may not be the most popular type of narrative in literature, it is true that poetry has the capacity of expressing feelings in a much more beautiful way than in any other type of writing, especially thanks to its particular figures of speech.

This type of poetry started in 19th century France, when the term vers libre was used by poets Kahn and Laforgue to describe a way of writing with irregular cadences. Since then, poets like Walt Whitman or Christina Rosetti have been using this technique and, though it may seem a pretty anarchic form of poetry, there is still some rules and characteristics that are followed. At OneHowTo we want to teach you what free verse poems are so you can learn a bit more and even try writing a free verse poem by yourself.

You may also be interested in: What is the Difference between Prose and Verse

Definition of free verse poems

As its name suggests, free verse poems are defined by having no rules that define meter patterns, do not necessarily rhyme and do not necessarily have musicality. This type of poetry is said to give the poet more freedom to express their mind in a more natural way without the tie of regular poetry that is subject to a specific structure and metered lines.

We should note that, though there is not any rhyming, we should not confuse this type of poetry with prose. Take a look at our article the difference between prose and verse if you have any doubts.

Characteristics

Though free verse poetry is not subject to any of the traditional rules of poetry, it does have some general characteristics that define it, as it is not that simple to create a good poem with this technique.

Free verse is all about what words make you feel, this is why the poet will usually carefully choose words to create feelings, maybe the sound of a word may remind someone of a certain emotion, for example.

Rhythm is also important, as the speed of reading will also generate a specific sensation, so the use of commas and full stops has a higher importance.

Some of the most used figures of speech in free poetry are synaesthesia, alliteration and personification.

To take a closer look we'll take a look at an example from Walt Whitman's poem After the Sea-Ship:

After the Sea Ship- after the whistling winds;

After the white-gray sails, taut to their spars and ropes,

Below, a myriad, myriad waves, hastening, lifting up their necks,

Tending in ceaseless flow toward the track of the ship: Waves of the ocean, bubbling and gurgling, emulous waves

[...]

Here we have examples of alliteration, with the repeated use of the letters 's' and 'w' in the first verse to emulate the whooshing sound of the wind and the sea.

We can also note personification when the author refers to the waves lifting up their necks.

What are Free Verse Poems - Characteristics

How to write a free verse poem

Now that you know what free poetry is and all of its characteristics, why don't you give it a try yourself? Follow these simple tips and give it a try!

  • Once you have chosen the subject for your poem, carefully think what type of sensation you want to communicate to the reader with every verse, this will help you choose each exact word and help you choose a specific rhythm for your poem.
  • Short words will make the poem have a faster rhythm and vice versa. Remember pauses can also give poems a certain rhythm.
  • Use personification when you are talking about objects or feelings, this will create a new perspective of the subject when reading, giving the free poem more depth.
  • To create alliteration, you can also make a list of words that contain certain sounds you think match the mood or sensation you want to share in your poem. Choose those that fit better together and make more sense with what you want to express.
What are Free Verse Poems - How to write a free verse poem

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