15 Famous Short Free-Verse Poems

Since its arrival on the literary horizon, free verse poems have set trends in poetic diction due to their forcefulness, their precision, and concision. Even the shortest poems were ever written have emerged on the literary scene. Any poem that is written under Some famous short free-verse poems is as follows. You can learn more about free verse poems here.

Poem #1

In a Station of the Metro by Ezra Pound

The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.

This two-lined poem is perhaps the world’s shortest poem, written in just two verses that do not rhyme with each other. Ezra Pound, the first known imagist poem, composed this poem in 1913. Despite its shortness and brevity, the poem has not lost its vitality and verve during the last century. The poem presents the crowd waiting to ride the Metro. The poet is standing at the station showing his interest in the Metro. In fact, this presentation is more concerned with human beings than with the Metro. The metaphorical comparison shows that human beings have been compared to flowers and the black boughs compared to the crowd mired in modern industrial waste. Both highly popular verses of the poem are as given above.

Poem #2

The Pool by Hilda Dolittle

Are you alive?
I touch you.
You quiver like a sea-fish.
I cover you with my net.
What are you—banded one?

This short poem was published in 1915. It also follows the topical trend of those times. Ezra Pound’s vision of seeing images in poetic diction has come to fruition, showing Dolittle a way out from her dilemmatic position. That is why the poem is included in the famous short free-verse poems. The poem presents a pool and its situation when the poet calls it whether it is alive or not. The questions and then the answers to these rhetorical questions in unrhymed verse have made it the most sought-after free verse poem.

Poem #3

Autumn by T. E. Hulme

A touch of cold in the Autumn night
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.

The above example was written in 1908 by one of the famous poets T. E. Hulme. The poet is known as one of the few first modern poets from the early 20th century. There’s not much of a description or hidden meaning in the poem. This free-verse poem describes the experience of the speaker when the nights get cold during the autumn. He steps out of his place and ventures into the streets. He perhaps observes people from the working class and children who are covered in dirt and dust, and too tired to clean up. Without using grand imageries, the poem captures nature, season, and the surroundings.

Poem #4

The Good Life by Tracy K. Smith

When some people talk about money
They speak as if it were a mysterious lover
Who went out to buy milk and never
Came back, and it makes me nostalgic
For the years I lived on coffee and bread,
Hungry all the time, walking to work on payday
Like a woman journeying for water
From a village without a well, then living
One or two nights like everyone else
On roast chicken and red wine.

This poem is long yet very forceful and strategic in terms of money and its presentation. The poem presents money as some animated object that goes out to purchase things with its mysterious power that is the sign of a mysterious love. This metaphorical presentation shows that it is like a woman, a feminine object that has the power of seduction as well as attraction to pull all things toward them.

Poem #5

 The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

This poem has set the stage for a comparative metaphor of human beings with living things. It is one of the recent poems written in 2018. The poem shows the poet comparing his life with that of the wild things to argue that they do not have anything to fret over nor do daily activities tax them. The main theme, however, is that the poet wants to live in the vicinity of nature to see the “grace of the world.” This is a type of freedom that he wants to enjoy.

Poem #6

Between Walls by William Carlos Williams

the back wings
of the

hospital where

will grow lie

in which shine
the broken

pieces of a green

Between Walls is taken from The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams. The poet often used imagism and modernism in his writings while keeping the poem concize. The poem here describes the dreary surrounding of the hospital where he is watching a broken green glass bottle. He observes the walls and knows that it is incapable of growing anything, indirectly hinting that the hospital is not a happy place. The poet used enjambment throughout the poetry without using any punctuation marks.

Poem # 7

Last Winter by H.D

He said (last winter),
the people have the advantage over us,
as I was sorry, God knows I was sorry enough;
the burnt red of Texas or the sun-burnt bronze
of his Arizona desert
had not had time to wear off,
and the rest of them stood in the rain,
a neat line waiting,
not saying anything,
but he barked from a young angry throat
these people have the advantage

The above poem is part of the May 1943 poem written by Hilda Doolittle, mostly known as H.D. The above example is the fourth poem in the volume under the uncollected poems. May 1943 was also known as black May due to WWII. The poem describes the winter amidst the war when the German bombs dropped on Kensington Palace. The war equally affected American states too. The poet gives a vivid description of the wintertime and the difficulty of finding a safe place while the soldiers from both sides were taking advantage of civilians. This is also written in a narrative style with no poetic structure, except lines 8 and 9 rhyming at the end.

Poem #8

 Risk by Anaïs Nin

And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
it took
to blossom.

The above example is an extended metaphor for a garden. This free-verse poem doesn’t have an exact publishing date. This short poem also uses the imagery of a flower, and beautifully describes remaining a bud instead of blooming. In a few words, the poet encourages readers to be bold, take risks, and in spite of the painful experience, blossom.

Poem #9

Harlem by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?like that time you caught a train

The above example by Langston Hughes is a thought-provoking free-verse poem about dreams and plans. It was first published in 1951. The poem talks about unfulfilled dreams and hopelessness. You can check the detailed analysis of the poem here – https://literarydevices.net/harlem/. The poem talks about racial justice ten years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Poem #10

The Jewel Stairs’ Grievance by Li Bai

Translated by Ezra Pound

The jewelled steps are already quite white with dew,
It is so late that the dew soaks my gauze stockings,
And I let down the crystal curtain
And watch the moon through the clear autumn.

The poem has an amazing background of how Ezra Pound found this amazing Chinese poem through a Japanese filter. This is poem is also called a court lament and known for its melancholy tone. The imagery describes that the speaker is walking through the palace with heavy grief. Everything is covered in jewels, including perfect weather, yet the speaker cannot find a reason to be happy or enjoy the autumn sky and the moon.