Free verse at a glance : Poetry through the Ages

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Free verse makes liberal use of line breaks, lack of rhyming, word choices, and lengths to create poems that reflect the writer’s deepest feelings and natural speech rhythms.

Poet Harvey Stanbrough (Beyond the Masks) likes to say of free verse, "There’s nothing truly free about it. All well-written free verse is metrically sound." Stanbrough’s view was echoed by former U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall, who said, "The form of free verse is as binding and as liberating as the form of a rondeau."

Laureate Donald Hall
Former U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall said, "The form of free verse is as binding and as liberating as the form of a rondeau."
Rhyme: No set pattern; most free verse doesn’t rhyme
Structure: Varied; most reliant on natural speech rhythms
Measure/Beat: Precise and vital, but style varies
Common Themes: Love, tragedy, nature, political, liberation, revelation
Other Notes:
  • No specific syllable counts per line or rhyming patterns per stanza
  • No limit to subjects of poems
  • Written to reflect natural rhythms of speech, rather than formal, structured movements
  • Lines work together to form a metrically sound experience
  • Single stanzas can exceed 100 lines, or begin and end in two lines
 

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