Free verse is most commonly used in modern and contemporary writing. It is useful when a writer is seeking to mimic natural speech patterns. It is important to note that while the free verse is liberated from the meter, there are elements of form. Many poets have spoken on the difficulties of writing in this form, as the lack of limitations is often a limitation in itself.
Where did free verse come from?
Free verse originated from a French form known as “vers libre”. It developed in the late 19th century and was seen most prevalently within the weekly journal La Vogue. The poets of this time were known as Counter-Romanticists. They were Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Stéphane Mallarmé, as well as many others.
Who used/uses the free verse form?
Walt Whitman is perhaps the best-known of the free verse poets. Whitman’s works also provide many great examples in which he repeated words and images, as well as sounds. This created a rhythm of one kind or another, without the use of a metrical pattern.
Other poets such as Ezra Pound and Marianne Moore also made use of free verse. The former especially is credited with writing music-like free verse poetry. Pound’s writings contain some of the best examples of what the form can accomplish. Let’s take a look at the first stanza from his piece, ‘The Garden’.
Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall
She walks by the railing of a path in Kensington Gardens,
And she is dying piece-meal
of a sort of emotional anemia.
While there is no rhyme scheme or metrical pattern, an attentive reader can find relations between the words that make it seem as if Pound did give the poem rhythm. This can be seen through the use of alliteration with “wall” and “walks,” as well as their connecting assonance, or vowel sound. Free verse remains an incredibly popular verse form. It allows for a great deal of experimentation that appeals to contemporary writers.
Take a look at these examples of free verse poems:
- ‘What Are Years’ by Marianne Moore
- ‘O Me! O Life!’ by Walt Whitman
- ‘Historic Evening’ by Arthur Rimbaud
- ‘The Return’ by Ezra Pound