Good ev’ning or mornin’! Welcome to our tenth month of poem-ing.
Now, we’re facin’ the roughest bull ride this side o’ the Mississippi: free verse.
Writing freely, without a form, is like opting for bareback riding on an unbridled stallion. You really oughter not; and, if you’re that determined, you really oughter know what you’re doing.
But this is Anyone Can Poem! I’m not here to warn against such idiocy; I’m here to teach you how to look good doing it!
First, let’s make sure you’re registered for the right event. What is a free verse poem?
Free verse is an open form of poetry, which in its modern form arose through the French vers libre form. It does not use consistent meter patterns, rhyme, or any musical pattern.–Wikipedia
It’s different from blank verse, which is taking a metered form and intentionally not rhyming. Free verse is also different than mishmashmess verse*, where you write whatever you want to and how.
Most free verse arises from an emotionally-moving experience we feel compelled to express in a poem. We awake at midnight, remembering our first (lost) love. We taste the first warmth of springtime against our skin during a morning walk. We fall head-over-heels for another person. We savor the agony of heartbreak when he or she doesn’t reciprocate.
Then, we pull the floating snippets of emotions down to the page. We feel that the words must not rhyme or conform to a pattern in order to express what we felt.
That’s great! I’m here to step in about now; pause the stallion-riding, and offer up a few pointers of why you have the inexplicable feeling that you’re actually seated backwards and wearing a prom dress and heels.
It’s simply because your free verse poem tricked you. It told you it needed to be mishmashmess when, in fact, it still needs form. -Not a bridle, per se; but definitely an arena within which to ride, and definitely a movement to the animal on which you sit. See: a lost-love poem must read like a beating heart. A nature poem about walking through springtime must read like a walking gait. New love must use long, slow-moving words like thoughtfulness and consideration at the start but short, exciting words like heat and touch as our feelings heighten.
So, please take your free verse poem. Go on: take it.
Now, I want you to shape it exactly the way you want it to read by changing the formatting.
If you wrote I saw a dove it alighted on my hand and frittered there, do you really intend that as a run-on sentence? Or, do you read it as:
I saw a dove;
it alighted on my hand
and frittered there
Or, maybe you even read it as:
my hand and
Use commas, semi-colons, periods, and hyphens to create small pauses. Use line breaks and new paragraphs to create longer pauses and new thoughts.
Then, share what you’ve done via the submission form (where only I will see it and respond) or in the comments section below (where only everyone may see and respond).
Go ahead. It’s easier than you think. And, it’s the first step toward a free-verse poem you’ll love. I promise.
Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.
©2021 Chel Owens
*I made up the term mishmashmess verse. Don’t look for it.