Writing Free Verse

Free verse does not have a set pattern of rhyme or rhythm.  There are no rules about line length in free verse. You try to keep the words that belong together on the same line, but, sometimes the poet will break these words if he/she wants to create a visual shape to support the poem's message, or feeling that the poet wishes the reader to experience.   The poet may wish to put special emphasis on a word he/she has used so he will that word a line to itself, or place it on the next line so the reader notices it or is surprised by the poet's use of the word . Often a poet will end a line because it feels right to him/her to do so.    The poet chooses the length of  each line and the length of the poem according to the message, or feeling he/she wishes to communicate to his/her reader.  When free verse is read aloud the reader can hear the rhythm of the words that the poet has used in his/her poem. Think of it as spoken music.      


Anything and everything can be the topic of a  free verse lyrical  poem.  The poem can tell a story, describe a person, animal, feeling or object.  They can serious, sad, funny or  educational.  What ever subject that appeals to the poet can end up in free verse.


The poet attempts to describe his/her subject with language that shows, not tells.   For example, instead of writing " We had so much fun today.", the poet would  write "They wore smiles all the way home."  The idea being that a grinning face is more descriptive of the fun they had. It also leaves a stronger impression with the reader.  Free verse poetry tries to capture images , convey meaning ,or emotions through the use of lyrical phrases that will get the poet's message across without a lot of telling.  Free verse poets use figurative language devices such as metaphors, similes, and personification to create these phrases.

Teachers, find out who are your local poets.  Invite them to your classroom to share their poetry and discuss their methods of writing poetry with your class. Go to your local library to borrow current reviews  such as The Malahat Review , or Fiddlehead,  so that you can share with your students what and how contemporary  poets are  writing.

Visit "Young Poets" Web Site.

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