Free Verse

Definition of Free Verse

Free verse is a literary device that can be defined as poetry that is free from limitations of regular meter or rhythm and does not rhyme with fixed forms. Such poems are without rhythms and rhyme schemes; do not follow regular rhyme scheme rules and still provide artistic expression. In this way, the poet can give his own shape to a poem how he/she desires. However, it still allows poets to use alliteration, rhyme, cadences or rhythms to get the effects that they consider are suitable for the piece.

Features of Free Verse

  • Free verse poems have no regular meter and rhythm.
  • They do not follow a proper rhyme scheme as such; these poems do not have any set rules.
  • This type of poem is based on normal pauses and natural rhythmical phrases as compared to the artificial constraints of normal poetry.
  • It is also called vers libre which is a French word.

Examples of free verse from literature

Example #1

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,…….
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

(A Noiseless Patient Spider by Walt Whitman)

If you are looking for free verse examples, then Walt Whitman is your guy. He is known as the father of free verse English poetry. In this poem, although only a simple metaphor is used to mesmerize the readers without employing regular rhyme scheme or rhythm. We can see normal pauses in the poem unlike the typical limitations of metrical feet.

Example #2

Barely tolerated, living on the margin
In our technological society, we were always having to be rescued
On the brink of destruction, like heroines in Orlando Furioso
Before it was time to start all over again.
There would be thunder in the bushes, a rustling of coils,…….
The whole thing might not, in the end, be the only solution……..
Came plowing down the course, just to make sure everything was O.K.…
About how to receive this latest piece of information.

(Soonest Mended by John Ashbury)

This is one of the best examples of free verse poems. In this poem, there is no regular rhyme scheme and rhythm; it is without poetic constraints, but with a flow that gives it a natural touch.

Example #3

Come slowly, Eden
Lips unused to thee.
Bashful, sip thy jasmines,
As the fainting bee,
Reaching late his flower,
Round her chamber hums,
Counts his nectars—alights,
And is lost in balms!

(Come Slowly, Eden by Emily Dickinson)

Emily Dickinson is famous as the mother of American English free verse. This poem does not have consistent metrical patterns, musical patterns or rhyme. Rather, following the rhythm of a natural speech, it gives an artistic expression to the ideas it contains.

Example #4

Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall
She walks by the railing of a path in Kensington Gardens,
And she is dying piece-meal
of a sort of emotional anemia.

And round about there is a rabble
Of the filthy, sturdy, unkillable infants of the very poor.
They shall inherit the earth.

In her is the end of breeding.
Her boredom is exquisite and excessive…..
will commit that indiscretion.

(The Garden by Ezra Pound)

Ezra Pound is also renowned for writing free verse poetry. He has created this modern free verse poem with musical quality. There are stressed and unstressed patterns but created in a very clever way. It is not following a regular rhyme scheme but we can see alliteration in words such as “like, loose, round rabble, exquisite and excessive.”

Function of Free Verse

Free verse is commonly used in contemporary poetry. Some poets have taken this technique as a freedom from rhythm and rhyme because it changes the mind of people whimsically. Therefore, free verse is also called vers libre.

The best thing about free verse is that poets can imagine the forms of any sound through the intonations instead of meters. Free verse gives a greater freedom for choosing words and conveying their meanings to the audience. Since it depends upon patterned elements like sounds, phrases, sentences and words, it is free of artificiality of a typical poetic expression.

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1 comment for “Free Verse

  1. Judith Kenyon
    December 13, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    I have written a free verse poem and I need a line count to enter it into a contest. Are the ends of sentences considered line if they fall into the next space, or are they part of the sentence they are in? Judy Kenyon

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