National Poetry Month: Explore Free Verse

The definition of free verse is in the name: it is free of any rhyme scheme or patterns.

Instead, free verse poets use elements like line breaks, enjambment (running a sentence over from one line to the next without ending punctuation), and rhythm to create a unique structure and cadence that suits their individual style and subject matter.

Walt Whitman has been called the “father of free verse[1]” and many free verse poets consider his collection of poetry, Leaves of Grass the standard.

In Midnight Sleep[2]

In midnight sleep, of many a face of anguish,
Of the look at first of the mortally wounded - of that indescribable look;
Of the dead on their backs, with arms extended wide,
I dream, I dream, I dream.

Of scenes of nature, fields and mountains;
Of skies, so beauteous after a storm - and at night the moon so unearthly  
Shining sweetly, shining down, where we dig the trenches and gather the
I dream, I dream, I dream.

Long, long have they pass'd - faces and trenches and fields;
Where through the carnage I moved with a callous composure - or away 
     from the fallen,
Onward I sped at the time - But now of their forms at night,
I dream, I dream, I dream.

Unlike traditional forms of poetry, such as sonnets or haikus, free verse does not adhere to any set rules or conventions. Instead, the poet has complete creative control over the form and content of the poem, allowing them to experiment with language, imagery, and tone in new and exciting ways.

While free verse may seem like a more relaxed or spontaneous form of poetry, it often requires a great deal of skill and craftsmanship to create a powerful and effective piece. By breaking away from traditional forms and structures, free verse poets can push the boundaries of what is possible in poetry, challenging both themselves and their readers to explore new ideas and perspectives.


[2] Walt Whitman; this poem is in the public domain.



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