What's your opinion on contemporary free verse poems, the ones that might equally be thought of as prose except for the line structure?
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If I understand the term "free verse" correctly, my opinion of it is that it can be either good or bad (in terms of what I like), just as more traditional forms of poetry can be. What I like in poetry depends more on what the poet has to say than in the form they use to say it.
For example, my understanding is that Whitman's "I Hear American Singing" is an example of free verse. I like that poem a great deal because it has a clear meaning and speaks to me about Whitman's vision of what America should be. It is also my understanding that "The Red Wheelbarrow" by William Carlos Williams is an example of free verse. That poem does not speak to me in any way whatsoever.
So I think that for me, at least, it's not a matter of what form the poem is in -- it's more about whether the poet's words evoke any feelings or response in me.
Free verse has a conversational attitude/tone that appeals to most people. It is less daunting and perhaps threatening to the non-intellectual. You'd be surprised how many teachers say they don't like poetry...I say poetry is life. It is music; it is every passionate feeling you've ever had; it is anger, greed, revenge, love, curiosity, lemonade on a hot summer day. It is revolt against government, support of a worthy cause, a broken heart, a celebration. Some poetry takes more time to understand; the poetry which evokes a personal response is usually the poetry we relate to most and like best. Free verse is like that...it doesn't rhyme, but it does have a rhythm...it's conversational, personal, and written for the every day person. I love it!
Interesting question! I've read many passages of prose that are poetry because they employ poetic devices (Scott Fitzgerald, a lot), but I don't recall reading any poem that could equally be thought of as prose. If it is prose except for the line structure, then it isn't poetry! It is just prose organized in a different way. It is the techniques of poetry that distinguish it from other forms of composition; take those away and the poem disappears. Would this be a poem?
In 1776 the American Revolution began;
Many lives were lost in gaining independence.
After hostilities ended, the United States was formed,
And it still exists today.
Looks like a poem, but it surely isn't poetry!
Yes, I think much of contemporary free verse poetry blurs into the category of prose. In my opinion, the difference between the two is that free verse poetry still employs some poetic devices that prose does not (i.e. alliteration, metaphor, enjambment, etc.).
When I write and read free verse, I enjoy the freedom in structure, meter, and rhyme. I think it is just as difficult to create a well-crafted free verse poem as it is a Petrachan sonnet! The former type allows the poet to express him or herself in a new and uniqe way.
Because free verse poetry tends to be more approachable for reluctant readers and writers, I use it at the beginning of the year with my 12th grade ESL students who do not particualrly enjoy expressing themselves in English. I found that even those students who would not normally participate in a class discussion or write an extensive personal narrative found great solace and freedom in using free verse poetry to articulate their ideas.
On the whole, I like reading it, I love hearing it read live, but I do not like teaching it. I find it difficult to teach for literary value. More than anything, I probably just enjoy it personally. I'm a fan of Billy Collins, and what he has done with Poetry 180 (which is mostly free verse). I also like his poetry.
Once in a while if I run across a poem that makes me smile, I might also share it with students, but usually for the purpose of exposure and entertainment only.
I remember the very first essay I received whilst studying my English Literature degree was entitled: "Free verse is like a game of tennis." Discuss. Scary! I share concerns with others that sometimes free verse in modern poets blurs the boundaries between prose and poetry. After all, there is a rather curious fragment called "A Storm in the Mountains" by Alexander Solzhenitzyn in Holt's Elements of Literature for Grade 10 students which is called a "Prose Poem," whatever that means. Certainly I have read poems that seem more prose and prose that seem more poetry in their diction.
I think free verse poetry is still poetry as long as it is using the devices that define poetry. Is the line between some prose and free verse poetry blurry? Yes. But ultimately it is the emotional response that it evokes that matters, rather than the form. If you need a traditional poem to evoke the same response, well that may just be a matter of opinion or experience. I find that my students respond to free verse poetry much more readily than some traditional poetry. I'm not sure what the reason is, but if it evokes the intended response then I'm in favor! Poetry is about emotion!
I love introducing children to poetry. Since I teach middle school, I find that poetry fits right in to how the children think and feel. Poetry is about emotion. It is about finding the words to express the inexpressible. I love to watch the magic happen when poetry is experienced, really experienced, for the first time.
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