Free Verse Poems

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.


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.


by Marilyn Nelson

‘Star-Fix’ by Marilyn Nelson is a poem that lionizes the noble role of the navigator onboard an aircraft.

In this poem, Nelson's uses free verse that resembles prose.

The Forest

by Susan Stewart

‘The Forest’ by Susan Stewart is a complex, cyclical poem about how memories can give new life to things that no longer exist.

'The Forest' is a free verse poem that takes heavy inspiration from some more traditional poetic forms. While the line length is variable and there is no rhyme, this poem has a set structure of line repetition that gives it a cyclical, self-entwined frame. Thus, it is an excellent example of how free verse poetry allows poets to use original, unique forms with self-invented structure.

The Powwow at the End of the World

by Sherman Alexie

‘The Powwow at the End of the World’ by Sherman Alexie is a stunning poem that reveals the apocalyptic price of an indigenous person’s forgiveness.

Sherman Alexie's poem is free verse, though it relies greatly on the anaphora of the repeated line: "I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall." It's not the most revolutionary or even strangest use of free verse but the poem does benefit from being sculpted around the image-centric sentences.

To My Brother

by Lorna Dee Cervantes

‘To My Brother’ by Lorna Dee Cervantes captures the intense bittersweetness of remembering a childhood checkered by both strife and happiness.

The poem's use of free verse recreates via its structure the impression of fragmented but fluid memories. Creating a dreamlike atmosphere and mood throughout.


by Anne Sexton

‘Rowing’ by Anne Sexton is a moving and unforgettable poem about depression. It was written two years before Sexton took her life in 1974.

'Rowing' is a free verse poem that does not conform to any set meter or rhyme scheme. This style allows Sexton to express her ideas and emotions in a more fluid and natural way, adding to the poem's emotional impact.

She Had Some Horses

by Joy Harjo

‘She Had Some Horses’ by Joy Harjo illustrates the plurality of differences among people.

Harjo's poem uses free verse but structures it around the use of anaphora, a repetition that helps underscores the poem's themes of diversity.

To a Dead Friend

by Langston Hughes

‘To a Dead Friend’ by Langston Hughes is a depressing poem about the ways death can permanently alter one’s ability to see or feel joy.

Hughes' writes in free verse but still uses choice rhymes to regulate the poem's mood and the speaker's tone.

Winter Stars

by Larry Levis

‘Winter Stars’ by Larry Levis tries to reconcile the estranged relationship between a son and their dying father.

Levis poem is written in free verse, allowing the poem's imagist descriptions of memories and the imagination to take on a prose-like structure.

Lady Lazarus

by Sylvia Plath

‘Lady Lazarus’ is one of the best poems of Sylvia Plath and an ideal example of Plath’s diction. This poem contains Plath’s poetic expression of her suicidal thoughts.

'Lady Lazarus' is written in free verse, a form of poetry that lacks a consistent meter or rhyme scheme. This allows Plath to experiment with form and structure and to focus on the use of vivid imagery and language to create a visceral and emotional impact.


by Gregory Corso

‘Marriage’ by Gregory Corso is a humorous and interesting poem about the pros and cons of getting married and everything that comes with it, like having children. 

This is a free verse poem, meaning it does not follow a specific rhyme scheme or medical pattern. The poem is divided into uneven stanzas, some of which are very long and others of which are quite short.

Suicide’s Note

by Langston Hughes

‘Suicide’s Note’ is a three-line poem that speaks from the perspective of someone who wants to take their own life. They feel the “cool face” of the river asking them for a “kiss.”

This poem is free verse, meaning it does not use a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. The lines are also quite short, something that makes each word feel all the more important.

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.

From My Life: A name trimmed with colored ribbons

by Lyn Hejinian

‘A name trimmed with colored ribbons’ by Lyn Hejinian is a Language Poem that requires the listener to use their imagination and creativity to reconstruct and interpret the poet’s childhood fantasies.

With no rhyme, meter, or syllabic structure to this poem, it reads like a stream of thought. The visible length of each line is the only ruling principle of this poem’s structure. Each line is approximately the same length as the others — aside from those seven lines near the poem’s introductory indentation. 

[love is more thicker than forget]

by E.E. Cummings

‘[love is more thicker than forget]’ by E.E. Cummings conveys the idea that love can be a source of hope, comfort, and joy in times of darkness.

This is a free verse poem, as seen through the poet's decision not to use a specific metrical pattern or rhyme scheme. This was very common in Cummings' work as it is throughout modern poetry.

How Did You Die?

by Edmund Vance Cooke

‘How Did You Die?’ by Edmund Vance Cooke is a rhyming poem that tries to impart an idealized view of perseverance in life.

The free-verse structure allows the poet to hinge the flow of the poem on its rhetorical questions, ignoring any specific meter while also creating a rhythm with its repeated lines/phrases and rhyme scheme.

At Pegasus

by Terrance Hayes

‘At Pegasus’ by Terrance Hayes is a powerful poem about identity that uses a youthful memory and a contemporary experience to speak about life.

This is a free verse poem that does not use a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. But, the lines are generally similar in length and divided into stanzas of three lines each, providing it with a degree of consistency that other free verse poems do not have.

Bag of Mice

by Nick Flynn

‘Bag of Mice’ by Nick Flynn is a powerful poem that describes a speaker’s dream and a listener’s suicide note. It uses short, evocative lines that are easy to read and hard to forget.

'Bag of Mice' is a great example of free verse poetry, as it does not follow a strict rhyme or meter scheme. Instead, the poem relies on imagery and metaphor to convey its meaning.

In Cold Storm Light

by Leslie Marmon Silko

‘In Cold Storm Light’ by Leslie Marmon Silko is a beautifully written nature poem that focuses on a winter day. The poem uses multiple examples of imagery to describe the scene. 

This is a free verse poem that uses lines of varying length, as short as two words, to describe a winter scene. The poet also chose to curve the lines' indention in order to make the text appear more unique.

The Hill We Climb

by Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman’s poem ‘The Hill We Climb’ is a moving depiction of the United States as it was on the cusp of President Biden’s inauguration in 2021. 

This is a free verse poem that does not use a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. But, the poem is filled with many instances of rhyme.

At First

by Amanda Gorman

‘At First’ by Amanda Gorman is a poem about language in the COVID-19 pandemic. The poem uses text messages to speak about how the pandemic changed everyone. 

This is a free verse poem. She writes without using a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern, instead using rhyme occasional.

The Best-Kept Secrets of Poetry

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

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

Start Your Perfect Poetry Journey