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1 FREE VERSE Many people consider free verse to be a modern form of poetry. The truth is that it has been around for several centuries; only in the 20th century did it become one of the most popular forms of poetry. Its popularity stems from the belief that free verse is poetry without rules; after all, it doesn't rhyme, and it doesn't have a meter. However, what separates poetry from prose is the arrangement of carefully chosen words into verses. This freedom of style allows the use of a great deal of imagination on the ways to express feelings or emotions about the chosen topic. There's more to free verse than a sudden thought recorded on paper. It's not that no rules apply to free verse; rather, the poet makes up the rules for each poem! Free verse done well will have rhythm, though it may not have a regular beat. A variety of poetic devices may be woven throughout the piece. There may be patterns of sound and repetition. Free verse can be compared to a song that doesn't rhyme. There is still a lyric quality to it. It may be more difficult to write free verse than any other form, simply because the poet has more decisions to make. With a haiku, you know the exact measurement of the poem; your task is easily defined. You need only follow the rules of the pattern. With free verse, there is no pattern until the poet creates one!

2 Without set rules, you are free to decide where to break your poem into stanzas. You may arrange your poem in stanzas of two or more lines. You may break at each new thought, much like paragraphs. You may break stanzas in mid-sentence to draw attention to a specific word or phrase. Like American poet Walt Whitman, you might break stanzas at the point where one would take a breath, were he or she reading aloud. It's up to you. ********************** Okay, what about an example? Teachers always have folders and files full of examples. Let's look first at a very short prose (prose is written material which is not poetry): The church stood tall upon the hill as it overlooked the community. Its bell rang through the clear morning air, calling people to come and worship. Soon the pews filled and music rose to the heavens while families and friends joined one another in thanksgiving. The paragraph is not poetry, but could be made into poetry without worrying about rhyme or meter (rhythm). However, simply writing the same words and sentences in short spurts of lines isn't the same as poetry; although, the wording is rather poetic, in a way. First let's see what kind of poetic devices we might use: alliteration (the repetition of beginning sounds used for effect) for one, since we can see church and community already in the paragraph as well as clear, calling, come. If we use all those words correctly, close together, we have alliteration. Next, what can we use as a metaphor (the comparison of unlike things saying one is the other) or simile (the comparison of unlike things saying one is like or as the other)? We could compare the church with something or the

3 bell with something. The church, like a guardian, watched over the community; the bell, a crying messenger, rang out its call. Maybe we can insert an oxymoron (the use of contradictory terms, together, for effect). Living death is an oxymoron. Heavenly sin is another. What might we use in this poem that we're going to write? Since we are talking about a community of people joining together, and mention family and friends, what about something like friendly enemies? Or maybe that isn't a good example. We'll see. Now we have some ideas that we can use in our free verse poem. Notice we haven't tried to put together any rhymes or to choose a pattern of syllables, because we don't care. We want to express our ideas and the poetic meanings. Like a benign guardian, the church sits upon a hill, caring for the community below. The bell, a crying messenger, rings forth its call to all through the crystal clear air of early morning's light. What do we have so far? I see alliteration, metaphor, and simile, no rhyme, and no rhythm scheme. So we have the start of a poem in free verse. Let's continue. The pews fill as music swells, sending songs heavenward. Kith and ken gather to worship and to rejoice, thankful that for one day friendly enemies can forget any distrust or discord. We find some more alliteration and our oxymoron in that stanza. Still there is no rhyme, but there could be if we wished, as long as we didn't set up a pattern. Any lines that have the same meter, or number of syllables, is accidental, not a pattern or scheme. Oh, one last comment- free verse does not mean don't use needed punctuation or capitalization. As I searched for examples of free verse, I found many that didn't have punctuation (which caused ideas and thoughts to run together) and didn't have capitalization, which distracts from the meaning.

4 The wonderful, wonderful thing about free verse is that it has very few distinct rules or boundaries. The rhythm or cadence of free verse varies throughout the poem. Though the words don't rhyme, they flow along their own uneven pattern. Definitely a poetry form for one who likes to march to the beat of a different drummer! Read some more examples- Running through a field of clover, Stop to pick a daffodil I play he loves me, loves me not, The daffy lies, it says he does not love me! Well, what use a daffy When Jimmy gives me roses? -- Flora Launa

5 Baseball Big baseball bats broken by Ben Big baseballs bouncing backward The bats were hurt They had a broken heart The baseballs were crying They bounced so much they were black and blue The fields were laughing at such a funny sight

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