A page from the "Poetry through the Ages" exhibit...

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Natural patterns.

Because of its hidden discipline, free verse often surprises those who expect a verbal free-for-all. While line and stanza counts, syllables, and rhyme schemes may seem random, the beat of the poem is not; it’s a variation of natural speech patterns. Free verse maintains a metrical and rhythmic precision, exemplified by its first universally recognized master, Walt Whitman.

From After the Sea-Ship
Walt Whitman (1819-92)

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, blithely prying,
Waves, undulating waves—liquid, uneven, emulous waves,
Toward that whirling current, laughing and buoyant, with curves,
Where the great Vessel, sailing and tacking, displaced the surface;
Larger and smaller waves, in the spread of the ocean, yearnfully flowing;
The wake of the Sea-Ship, after she passes—flashing and frolicsome, under the sun,
A motley procession, with many a fleck of foam, and many fragments,
Following the stately and rapid Ship—in the wake following.
From Marriage
Marianne Moore (1887-1972)

This institution,

perhaps one should say enterprise
out of respect for which
one says one need not change one’s mind
about a thing one has believed in,
requiring public promises
of one’s intention
to fulfill a private obligation:
I wonder what Adam and Eve
think of it by this time,
this fire-gilt steel
alive with goldenness;
how bright it shows—

From Little Father

Li-Young Lee (1957- )

I buried my father in my heart.

Now he grows in me, my strange son,
My little root who won’t drink milk,
Little pale foot sunk in unheard-of night,
Little clock spring newly wet
In the fire, little grape, parent to the future
Wine, a son the fruit of his own son,
Little father I ransom with my life.