Free Verse

an afternoon nap

by Arthur Yap

‘an afternoon nap’ by Arthur Yap explores the lacunae in the modern education system and how it results in anxiety and stress in students.

In this poem, Yap uses the free-verse form in order to hint at the discord and lack of harmony in a mother-son relationship.

the ambitious mother across the road

is at it again. proclaming her goodness

she beats the boy. shouting out his wrongs, with raps

she begins with his mediocre report-book grades.

Explore more Free Verse poems

“Why did you come” (#1 from Hermetic Definition: ‘Red Rose and a Beggar’)

by Hilda Doolittle

‘Why did you come’ by Hilda Doolittle is a free-verse poem about love, self-criticism, aging, and the human inability to control judgments and desires.

Hilda Doolittle was one of the first successful poets to use free verse poetry. "Why did you come" is an excellent example of how she, along with other imagists, replaced strict structures and meters with a more organic form that uses punctuation, enjambment, and breath to create a poetic rhythm.

Winterisation

by Jean Bleakney

‘Winterisation’ subtly weaves the processes of preparing for winter and steeling oneself for news of bereavement.

The poem takes on a breathless tone to mirror a nervous speaker.

Carpet-weavers, Morocco

by Carol Rumens

‘Carpet-weavers, Morocco’ is a challenging poem which explores issues such as child labour as well as examining the myriad origins of beauty.

The simple, direct style of Rumens' work mirrors that of everyday speech, punctuated with regular pauses.

Nightscapes

by Jean Bleakney

‘Nightscapes’ beautifully captures the feeling of being isolated from nature that is common in urban environments.

The poem closely resembles free verse, even though it utilises occasional rhymes and half-rhymes.

A Watery City

by Jean Bleakney

‘A Watery City’ engages with themes of friendship and journeying, significantly how they are affected by the passage of time.

The poem's free verse allows the reader to experience the free and relaxed manner in which the narrator engaged with her friend as well as embodying the free and flowing movement of the river Lee.

“Take me anywhere” (from Hermetic Definition: ‘Red Rose and a Beggar’)

by Hilda Doolittle

In “Take me anywhere, anywhere;” by Hilda Doolittle, the poet-speaker addresses a lover, expressing the way in which she takes refuge in their affection.

"Take me anywhere, anywhere;" is a good example of a free verse poem that follows its own rules for form and structure. However, it is not among the more well-known free verse poems, especially considering its short length. In addition, it follows the standard conventions of Hilda Doolittle's poetry, making it a bit less unique than some of her better-known and more unique free verse poetry.

The Machinist, Teaching His Daughter to Play the Piano

by B.H. Fairchild

‘The Machinist, Teaching His Daughter to Play the Piano’ by B.H. Fairchild is a free verse poem about how the creative process can connect a father and daughter.

‘The Machinist, Teaching His Daughter to Play the Piano’ uses free verse in a unique and interesting way, creating imagery with its verse structure and illustrating the lathe's turning with stanza breaks. In addition, punctuation plays a significant role in the poem's flow, creating a well-constructed, unique-sounding poem that represents the beauty of free verse very well.

The Rose That Grew From Concrete

by Tupac Shakur

‘The Rose That Grew From Concrete’ is a moving celebration of personal resolve against the backdrop of oppressive forces.

A simple and direct poem, Shakur utilises free verse in order to make his message as plain and clear as possible.

Consolidation

by Jean Bleakney

Jean Bleakney’s ‘Consolidation’ is a deeply personal poem about the act of rearranging the cowry shells that the speaker and her children gathered in the past.

In this poem, Bleakney uses free verse to maintain an unrestricted flow and to highlight how the speaker feels about her children gone apart.

Death of a Young Woman

by Gillian Clarke

Explore ‘Death of a Young Woman,’ where Clarke depicts how a loved one’s death lets a person free from their inward, endless suffering.

The absence of a fixed rhyming pattern and meter resonates with the underlying theme of Clarke's free-verse poem.

My Mother Would Be a Falconress

by Robert Duncan

‘My Mother Would Be a Falconress’ by Robert Duncan explores a son and mother’s relationship through the lens of a falcon breaking free from his handler.

'My Mother Would Be a Falconress' is an excellent example of the literary merit of free verse. Duncan uses free verse to illustrate the speaker's gradual rebellion against his mother, his increasing frustration, and the images within the poem, all of which synthesize as a dream within the speaker's mind.

Oddjob, a Bull Terrier

by Derek Walcott

‘Oddjob, a Bull Terrier’ by Derek Walcott is a thoughtful, emotional poem about loss and how unbearable the death of a pet can be. 

This poem does not use a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern, making it a free verse poem.

Parrot

by Stevie Smith

‘Parrot’ is a moving exploration of imprisonment and suffering set against the backdrop of the modern, urban world.

The poem has no fixed meter but does make use of several rhyming couplets.

The Dancing

by Gerald Stern

‘The Dancing’ by Gerald Stern is an emotionally complex poem that wrestles with feelings of joy and bittersweetness inspired by a fond memory.

The poem is free verse but Stern's attempt to recreate the kinetic sense of the music and dancing gives it an inherent cadence.

The Portrait

by Stanley Kunitz

‘The Portrait’ by Stanley Kunitz is a sad poem about the speaker’s ill-fated attempt to learn more about their deceased father.

The poem is written in free verse with the use of enjambment, with Kunitz focusing his line breaks around powerful images that convey the complicated emotions that surround the death of a loved one.

The Sheep Child

by James Dickey

‘The Sheep Child’ by James L. Dickey is a surprising and memorable poem that describes a half-sheep, half-human child that frightens the local farm boys into controlling their sexual lust. 

This poem is free verse, meaning that the lines do not follow a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. The stanzas are very different lengths, ranging from one line up to fifteen.

Bestiary

by Kay Ryan

‘Bestiary’ by Kay Ryan is a short, cynical, and witty free verse poem in which the speaker explores the differences between what is good and what is best.

Ryan's use of free verse in 'Bestiary' is inspired as she mimics the size and shape of an entry in a Medieval bestiary. The short lines create pauses and a direct hierarchy of what is "best" and what is "good," with the forgotten goods all buried underneath the bests.

Circe

by Hilda Doolittle

‘Circe’ by Hilda Doolittle is a poem that gives voice to Circe, a goddess and master of magical enchantments. Despite her power, she laments that she cannot control love.

'Circe' is a great example of free verse poetry, but its use of stanza structure and line breaks is, frankly, quite unrefined compared to Hilda Doolittle's other poems. While the structure builds up speed and tension within the poem very well, it serves no other purposes and is far less compressed than one should expect from HD.

Yellow Stars and Ice

by Susan Stewart

‘Yellow Stars and Ice’ captures the unattainable nature of memory, even when it feels tantalizingly close at hand.

The poem's free verse mirrors the lack of structure that memory exhibits, as it is constantly altering as our experiences of the present colour and distort our memories of the past.

Permanently

by Kenneth Koch

‘Permanently’ by Kenneth Koch is a poem that compares the speaker’s love to the part of speech they view as the most essential.

The poem's free verse gives Koch more freedom in toying with the surreal aspects of the poem. Allowing him to give both entire snippets of conversation and short, succinct scenes.

Ruins of a Great House

by Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott’s ‘Ruins of a Great House’ combines themes of historical and cultural abuse with factual reasoning and literary references to bring together a massive emotional conflict in the Speaker’s perception.

This is an excellent poem for free verse, as it follows no structure or rhyme scheme. Instead, the poem uses punctuation to pace its flow and counts on the reader to put their faith more in the Speaker's words than in how they read the page.

The Virgins

by Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott’s poem ‘The Virgins’ gives a holistic view of the life, economy, and culture of one of the Virgin Islands of the US, Saint Croix.

'The Virgins' is written using free verse yet contains a few examples of occasional rhyming.

A Muse of Water

by Carolyn Kizer

‘A Muse of Water’ by Carolyn Kizer is a unique poem that places women as a force of nature, like water, that men attempt to control, redirect, and oppress.

'A Muse of Water' is a free verse poem that uses punctuation, alliteration, and line breaks to create a pace or flow. However, this poem is not the best or boldest example of free verse poetry, as it is a later free verse poem that still follows its own set of rules.

Anne Rutledge

by Edgar Lee Masters

‘Anne Rutledge’ by Edgar Lee Masters is an epitaph based on the life of someone who knew and loved Abraham Lincoln in her youth.

This poem does not follow a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern and is therefore written in free verse.

The Idea of Ancestry

by Etheridge Knight

‘The Idea of Ancestry’ by Etheridge Knight is concerned with family relationships and how important being with those you’re related to is. 

This is a free verse poem that does not follow a specific rhyme scheme.

Two Armies

by Stephen Spender

‘Two Armies’ by Stephen Spender describes two armies on a devastating battlefield where every individual is suffering. Their common humanity is highlighted. 

The poem uses free verse style poetic verse but also uses some rhyming patterns.

“Venice — Venus?” (#5 from Hermetic Definition: ‘Red Rose and a Beggar’)

by Hilda Doolittle

“Venice — Venus?” by Hilda Doolittle is an insightful poem about Doolittle’s reasons for writing despite critiques. Doolittle reveals that her ultimate source of inspiration is divine.

"Venice — Venus?" is written in a structured free verse, following the conventions of Dolittle's book, Hermetic Definition. Because of the brevity of this poem and its conventional form, it is not the best example of how to construct free verse poetry. Other poems that take more creative license would be far better examples of this form.

Parades, Parades

by Derek Walcott

‘Parades, Parades’ by Derek Walcott is an interesting, allusion-filled poem that discusses Saint Lucia after the end of British colonial rule. 

The poem is written in free verse but is not one of the best-known examples of this type of poem.

The Double Shame

by Stephen Spender

‘The Double Shame’ by Stephen Spender conveys a depiction of what the world feels like when one loses a very important person in their life. Everything is transformed in a way that makes a living from day to day difficult. 

The poem does not use a consistent rhyme scheme or metrical pattern and is therefore written in free verse.

Discover and learn about the greatest poetry, straight to your inbox

Start Your Perfect Poetry Journey

The Best-Kept Secrets of Poetry

Discover and learn about the greatest poetry ever straight to your inbox