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Saddle Up Saloon: Anyone Can Poem

Good ev’ning or mornin’! Welcome to our tenth month of poem-ing.

We’ve a rough ride this year -through loosening up, parody, forms, meter, and word choice.

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.


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:
I saw
a dove.
alighted on
my hand and
frittered there.

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.


  1. Dear Chel,
    I enjoyed this post and not just because you posted it. Free verse can be tougher than a poem with “rules”. Some come out that way but I never really thought about why or what type of poem comes out free verse. I know that sometimes without plan a poem finds its own form, a rhyme or a rhythm shows up on its own. But some poems don’t invite rhyme or meter.
    Here’s one I wrote for Six Sentence Stories recently. I will share how it came to me and how I posted it. Then I will share our friend Doug’s suggestions for it. He was generous to offer the suggestion, which I declined to take, but what do you think?

    Blanketed (1)

    He wrapped around her
    a tolerable weight
    said it was love

    and she wanted it to be
    blanketing them over
    time felt it turn scratchy and thin

    he pulled it tighter
    pressed she wanted it to be
    love but shivered underneath

    the fraying cover like her heart
    came apart into ragged pieces.
    One he tied around her oaken throat

    threadbare shreds her gossamer wings
    with one last square he wiped his eyes
    cried ‘This is love that was

    that is,
    I wanted
    it to be’.

    Blanketed (2)

    He wrapped around her
    a tolerable weight,
    said it was love.

    And she wanted it to be
    blanketing them
    (but) over time felt it turn scratchy and thin

    He pulled it tighter,
    She wanted it to be love
    but shivered underneath.

    The fraying cover,
    like her heart,
    came apart into ragged pieces.

    One he tied around her oaken throat;
    threadbare shreds (wrapped) her gossamer wings

    With one last square he wiped his eyes,
    (as he) cried,

    ‘This is love that was,
    that is.
    (what) I wanted
    it to be.’

    • Chel Owens says:

      A huge reason why I hesitate to say, “Free verse MUST be *this*” is that the ‘meter’ of the poem needs to come from the intended pattern the poet writes and the way she thinks.

      On that subject, I wouldn’t suggest exactly what Doug did. 😀 I think he’s trying to suggest some consistency of construction with that first insertion, which I would -in “a tolerable weight
      said it was love”
      you start “said it was love” on a new line, thereby using the line breaks to introduce a new thought, but at “blanketing them over
      time felt it turn scratchy and thin”
      you have “time felt it turn…” continuing from the line above.

      So, I would introduce new thoughts each line instead of continuing a sentence from before (unless it forms its own thought).

      • Thanks! Maybe this is better. I got rid of the internal rhymes that had crept into the first version too


        He wrapped around her
        a tolerable weight
        said it was love
        and she wanted it to be
        blanketing them
        over time
        she felt it turn
        scratchy and thin
        he pulled it tighter
        she wanted it to be
        but shivered underneath
        the fraying cover like her heart
        threadbare ragged pieces
        which he tied around her oaken throat
        wiped his eyes with one last shred
        cried, ‘This is love that was—
        that is,
        I wanted it to be’.

      • Chel Owens says:

        Wow. That’s just what I wanted, D. Perfect.

      • Thanks to Doug and to you for pushing me to pick up this poem that wasn’t really finished. This time I did listen and prefer the revised one. Thank you for the input and prompt.

    • Norah says:

      Enjoyed the poem, the process and the revision. Craftily done.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Great demonstration of productive peer critique, which is to improve a piece of writing. D., this is a moving free verse. Love what you did with parentheses.

  2. denmaniacs4 says:

    Snow Fall Away

    It comes in layers,
    wet snow,
    on the steps,
    smoke swirling in the frigid air,
    the old man sleeping rough
    in the doorway,
    the dreams of time
    still drink warm coffee
    at the corner café,
    the one Maxie used to own
    but left it to his brother, Tommy,
    when he died.
    Tommy never was a business guy.
    He has run it into the ground.
    It’s on the block now
    And will be sold.
    Probably for condos.
    Then, there will be no place
    In the neighborhood
    to get a good cup
    of hot joe.

    It all comes in layers,
    dreams rained out,
    smoke swirling in the frigid air,
    the old man still sleeping rough
    until the wagon comes.

  3. […] Carrot Ranch Saddle Up Salloon/ Anyone Can Poem 10 Free verse (see prompt) “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.” -(Wiki) Imprompt; The Office Think like a novelist, write like a poet.// Today I want you to create a space, get to know it, then write about something you find there. …see prompt…//Put yourself in a place. Discover. What do you see? 111 Image credit; Vrolans @ Pixabay //For the visually challenged reader, the image shows arches of an old brick building and steps leading down. From the arches you can see some part of the building too. […]

  4. Jules says:

    From three prompts, this second version is 99 words 🙂

    Another Ancient European Town

    The town square in the little Italian town
    Seems carved out of the mountain;
    All the buildings, stairs and passages – light stone

    Polished with age; could it be marble?
    There no earthen dirt so
    Every heal of solid shoes echoes

    The space is made smaller sellers –
    All the vendors voices compete with buyers
    Will the buyers, the tourists be aware, beware…

    Whose lives behind those thick walls?
    Who traverses the maze like narrow alleys
    To see a neighbor, or visit the church there?

    Even in the heat the stone was cold
    Shadows constantly changing,
    Leaving only whispers of impressions…

    © JP/dh

  5. Norah says:

    I enjoyed your explanation of free verse, Chelsea. I hadn’t realised it was so complex.

  6. Charli Mills says:

    A great lesson in free verse. It is deceptively simple (like writing a novel). But layers matter.

  7. Reblogged this on ShiftnShake and commented:

    Did you know that every first Monday Chel Owens offers a poetry prompt and more at the Saddle Up Saloon? The more is a conversation about different poetry forms and she will provide feedback on your poem either privately or publicly. With a little encouragement it’s true, anyone can poem.

  8. suespitulnik says:

    Thanks for the lesson. Not sure this fits, but it’s how I spent the last few weeks with a friend.

    Experienced With a Friend

    mammogram, ugh
    a callback
    fear trickles in
    what was detected
    another view
    a biopsy scheduled
    fear increases
    it isn’t cancer
    but it doesn’t belong
    must be removed
    fretting while waiting
    too long a time
    get it out
    I can keep going

  9. Gr8BigFun says:

    Great article, here is my attempt at free verse.

    A New Day
    Great article on Free Verse, here is my attempt

    A New Day

    A new day.
    Starting over,

    It doesn’t matter.
    I’ll continue,
    day after day.
    this time will
    be different.

    It won’t,
    I know better, but
    I have to try.
    If I don’t, I’d be
    admitting defeat.

    The sun rises –
    and sets –
    and rises –
    and sets –

    I wake up,
    it’s still there.
    In my chest,
    in my bones.
    Always there, like
    background noise.

    you haunt me.
    I can’t,
    I won’t,
    let you go.

    The new moon –
    waxing –
    full –
    waning –

    I close my eyes,
    it’s still there.
    Each heart –
    beat / beat / beat
    A reminder I’m
    only half alive.

    It should have
    been me,
    not you,
    laid shallow (sigh)
    on that hill.

    The seasons –
    Become years –
    Strung into decades –
    A lifetime –

    A new day.
    Starting over,

  10. Reena Saxena says:

    YES, BUT..

    Yes, you were nice to me today

    but why do
    you expect
    that I forget
    verbal blows
    and barbs
    you damaged me with
    and move ahead
    forgetfully whole
    holding splinters together
    with imagined glue
    It will fall apart
    when I stop
    you are normal
    and I’m whole

    Yes, you were nice to me today

    and on many other days
    long before
    you imposed
    crushed my free spirit
    blamed me
    for wrongs
    not committed
    you made
    allegations –
    the life lived before
    came undone
    how do I believe
    it won’t happen again
    The sun can shine
    Sorrows won’t rain

    Yes, you are nice to me today
    but tomorrow is another day…

    Reena Saxena (c)2021

  11. Chel Owens says:

    Excellent work so far, poets! We’ll be looking at free verse into more depth with the next month, so keep throwing what you have out there and spacing it the way you picture its being read.

  12. […] thing, I’m still exploring a lot of old posts and such. This week I shared a poem with Saddle Up Saloon: Anyone Can Poem with Chel Owens at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community. Well didn’t that take me down the […]

  13. […] posted for critique at Carrot Ranch Literary Community‘s Saddle Up Saloon: Anyone Can Poem with Chel Owens.Photo credit: Brett Sayles via Pexels.Copyright 2021 Greg […]

  14. TanGental says:

    Here you go… can’t wait for the masterful pointers (for once I’m being serious)

    There Yet

    I moaned, as a child
    If made to go on a walk.
    ‘It’s good for you,’ he’d say.
    As if I cared.
    Those miles,
    Wasted space in a day.
    Each step a trial
    Each foot a mile.
    Pointless to ask, ‘Are we there yet?’
    We never were.
    Later, lost in my inarticulacy
    Him with his opinions, me with my frustrations,
    I walked away.
    Into a manhood
    Of work, love, marriage.
    I walked down the aisle
    And he grinned.
    Fit to burst.
    Both of us men,
    Walking around each other.
    This new status quo,
    Never getting us anywhere…
    One day, a call.
    ‘I’m going on a walk.’
    ‘Just a walk. Would you…?’
    It’s never ‘just’ anything,
    Not with him.
    But I joined in,
    On the outside of his companions.
    Walking and watching:
    The laughter, the ease, the baggage easily shared.
    I was sad when it ended.
    ‘Have we got there already?’
    ‘Not yet,’ he’d say, even when we had.
    Other walks followed
    And we walked ourselves
    Until we met somewhere beyond our past,
    Somewhere where understanding resides.
    For years we walked,
    Into the distance,
    Across paths and our past,
    Finding views and vistas,
    Friendship and love.
    I still walk.
    He’s there.
    These days, he’s the one who listens.
    And I no longer want to know if we’re there yet.

  15. […] Chelsea has encouraged us to write some free verse. I’d not thought I would have a subject but then I got talking about how my relationship with my father changed as a result of us beginning a series of long distance walks after her retired in the 1980s. This is the result. If you’d like to give free verse a go and have the benefit of Chel’s insightful thoughts (she’s done wonders on other of my poems) click here […]

  16. […] shared your free verse poem with the sort of pausing you want it read with. Now it’s time to get more nitty-gritty. I want you to look at everywhere you’ve done a […]

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