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What is free verse in poetry?

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jmakob | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 4, 2010 at 7:06 PM via web

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What is free verse in poetry?

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shakespeareguru | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted November 4, 2010 at 9:44 PM (Answer #1)

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Free verse is verse without specific requirements for meter and line length.  As Enotes says in its Guide To Literary Terms, free verse does rely

upon natural rhythms. It is free from fixed metrical patterns, but does reveal the cadences that result from alternating stressed and unstressed syllables. The form is thought to add force to thought and expression. While giving an address on May 17, 1935, Robert Frost explained, “Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.”

Verse is simply another term for poetry.  There is always, in poetry, a heightened quality and a careful intention to the order of words and the organization of the lines, even in free verse where there are no set rules to follow.  Poets always carefully structure their work so that the order of the words and the length of each line gives the reader the rhymic and visual impression that they intend.  So, though the verse is "free," there is still careful intention behind it.

Enotes gives this example of free verse.  This is Walt Whitman, an American poet from the mid-nineteenth century.  The poem is "After the sea-ship."

After the sea-ship, after the whistling winds,
After the white-grey sails taut to their spars and ropes,
Below, a myriad myriad waves hastening, lifting up their necks,
Tending in ceaseless flow toward the track of the ship,
Waves of the ocean bubbling and gurgling, blithely prying,
Waves, undulating waves, liquid, uneven, emulous waves,
Toward that whirling current, laughing and buoyant, with curves,
Where the great vessel sailing and tacking displace the surface . . .
lines 1 – 8

For more on verse and free verse, please follow the links below.

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sparrow13 | Student, Grade 10 | Honors

Posted November 4, 2010 at 7:21 PM (Answer #2)

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free verse in poetry is when there is not a set structure to the poem. it does not have to have specific stanzas. this means that the poem can be any length or shape. also, there does not have to be any punctuation or enjambement. it is a compltely free poem and you choose everything with no set rules.

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