Why Writing Free Verse Is Effing Awesome
Now, you can take pride in being an expert when it comes to using devices like rhyme and meter, or you can set up your own lab and experiment with free verse.
You can go ahead and tell me, how free verse is not poetry. Because it has no rhyme or meter or any such fancy literary terms that define ‘what poetry actually is?’
Yes, but free verse does have one rule, and that is there are no rules.
I have nothing against the people who have a set standard of what poetry should be, but we wouldn’t have Walt Whitman writing some of his best work if it wasn’t his experimentation with free verse.
Yes, the way we differentiate between prose and poetry is through meter and when free verse comes in the picture that line gets crossed. According to the elitists, then anything becomes poetry if it has enough line breaks, whether it be a novel or an encyclopedia.
Before I elaborate on that, let me remind you of the scene from Dead Poets’ Society, when Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) starts teaching his class and tells them to rip the introduction page in their textbook that is about “Understanding Poetry.”
KEATING: “Keep ripping, gentlemen! This is a battle. A war. And the casualties could be your hearts and souls… Armies of academics going forward, measuring poetry. No! We’ll not have that here... Now, my class, you will learn to think for yourselves again. You will learn to savor words and language. No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world. I see that look in Mr. Pitt’s eye, like nineteenth century literature has nothing to do with going to business school or medical school. Right? Maybe. Mr. Hopkins, you may agree with him, thinking “Yes, we should simply study… our rhyme and meter and go quietly about the business of achieving other ambitions.” I have a little secret for ya.
We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are all noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.
To quote from Whitman: “O me, o life of the questions of these recurring, of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities filled with the foolish. What good amid these, o me, o life?
Answer: that you are here. That life exists, and identity. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?
You see, before you figure, WHAT you are writing, you need to figure WHY are you writing? If that is clear, then you will know, WHAT exactly you are supposed to write and HOW you will write it.
Elaborating on the previous statement that free verse makes any piece of writing — poetry, I doubt it does. Because every form of writing has it’s own standards, whether it be a novel or an encyclopedia.
Novels tell stories in certain format and it’s not necessary that a free verse poem will have a story or a format. An encyclopedia is based on facts, it has references and resources but free verse doesn’t need these things.
So what is free verse, then?
Free Verse is ‘Verse Libre’ which is derived from French, it means ‘Liberating the Verse’. It was first seen when 19th century poets such as Jules Laforgue in his Derniers vers used the innovative technique of using irregular cadences/pauses/rhythm/tempo.
Free verse has existed since decades, and it can be safe to say, it existed even before the term came into existence. Regardless of that, today even Spoken Word Poetry which is quite trending has free verse as one of its forms.
Why? Because it is poetry that thinks out of the box. It uses a language that dreamers dream in. You will surprise yourself when you write free verse. And the readers/audience never knows whats coming.
It gives you the freedom to choose your words that help you convey what you want to and not be restricted to maintaining a form. You can let go and flow.
Free verse is your space to experiment with poetry.
Why free verse is awesome? Because it makes you spontaneous. You are not bounded by anything, your voice finds the freedom to express itself in a more raw and authentic way.
And now, if you are still wondering, “How do I write a free verse poem?”
My answer is, you decide.