Arts & Culture

Poetry + Art: Free Verse

As we move into fall, the transitional season between summer and winter, I found it appropriate to discuss a form of poetry that grew out of the contemporary period, a transitional time in history.  The contemporary period is often defined as the post-WWII era, during which much of the world was moving from an agriculture-based economy to an industry-based economy.  Globally, people grew more connected with the advent offaster communication.  In response to all these changes, poetry changed dramatically, and free verse was born.  Free verse is poetry without end rhyme, often taking form in unique and thoughtfully anarchic ways.

!blac

by e. e. cummings

!blac
k
agains
t

(whi)

te sky
?t
rees whic
h fr

om droppe

d
,
le
af

a:;go

e
s wh
IrlI
n

.g

 

One might easily dismiss the above poem as pure nonsense.  However, if the letters are lined up in the normal order and form, it will look like this: “black trees against white sky, from which dropped, a leaf goes whirling.”  The poet’s choice to arrange the lines vertically rather than horizontally leads to a pattern that imitates a leaf falling.  For instance, if you look at “whirling” in the poem, the word is literally whirling; some lines are backward and the period at the end is lined up incorrectly.  This poem accomplishes, unconventionally, the main purpose of poetry, which is to capture an experience or sight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fog

By Carl Sandburg

The fog comes

on little cat feet.

It sits looking

over harbor and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on.

 

Fog is common in fall; the above poem draws parallels between fog and cats.  This poem uses soft, muffled sounds and describes passive activities such as sitting and looking.  The poet probably chose free-verse for this poem because he wanted to have a more conversational, transient, and unstructured feel to his poem, mimicking fog.

Imagination Figs

Purple

And other colors

Of figs

Drop from the tree

Of the brain

They are

Figs of the imagination

The figs are sweet

So sweet

They tempt

Persephone

Back from the dead

To the land

Of the living

Such is their power

To nourish the psyche

But

Do keep in mind

That they are

Not nutritious

That they are

Just figments

Of the imagination

Like a drop

Of sweetness

On your tongue

They add flavor

To your day

But they are not

Resolutely not

Food for thought

 

The above poem is one I wrote.  It was inspired by something I heard a family member say, which was “fig of the imagination” instead of “figment of the imagination.” I decided to put it into free verse, as rhymed verse tends to make readers skim ahead when reading, propelled by the rhymes, while in free verse, readers are forced to slow down, unbuoyed by the lack of rhythm.  I wanted my poem to be read more slowly.  To add some stabilizing structure to the verses, each line is about 2-5 syllables, or between 1-4 words long.

 

Free verse is good for imparting a less structured, more conversational tone to a poem.  There are multiple similar variations, including blank verse and internally rhymed poetry.   Blank verse is poetry with a regular rhythm and meter, but no end rhymes; this is often the format found in Shakespeare’s plays.  Internally rhymed poems have rhymes within the lines rather than at their ends.  For instance, internal rhyme is evident in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” in which he wrote: “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary.”

 

Now it’s your turn!  Write a free-verse poem in the style of “!blac” and post it in the comments below.  Choose your format carefully; for instance, a poem about the moon could take on a round or crescent shape.

 

  1. “Examples of Internal Rhyme.” YourDictionary. N.p., 28 June 2016. Web. 28 June 2017.

<http://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-internal-rhyme.html>

 

  1. On Translation | Postscript: E E Cummings. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 June 2017.

<https://www.umass.edu/wsp/lectures/translation/learning/cummings.html>

 

2 Comments

  1. This is a really great article Rachel! I absolutely loved your poem “Imagination Figs,” especially how you reference Persephone’s story. Very creative! Although rhymed poetry will always be my favorite type to read or write, you shed new light on free verse poetry and its merits. Good job!

    • Thank you for commenting! I’m glad you like “Imagination Figs” poem. I agree, rhymed verse is a little more satisfying to read or write than free verse, but they’re just different ways to express oneself.