They are often contrasted with closed form poems or those that follow a traditional pattern or structure. For example, include the rhyme scheme of traditional ballad meter, a specific rhyme scheme like AABBCC, and many more.
Explore Open Form in Poetry
Open Form Poetry Definition
The open form is a style of poetry. It can be seen when the poet ignores all types of structure and form when writing verse. These poems are written in free verse. This means that the poet did not use a rhyme scheme or metrical pattern.
Contrary to popular belief, open form or free verse poems can rhyme. Readers might find several related end rhymes, examples of half-rhymes, and internal rhymes in a free verse or open form poem. But, the rhyming words do not follow a pattern. The same can be said for the use of meter in these poems.
Examples of Open Form Poetry
This confessional poem is written in open form and was inspired by the poet’s time in the hospital after going through an appendectomy. The poem is divided into seven-line stanzas (a small example of form) but does not follow a specific metrical pattern or rhyme scheme. For example:
The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here.
Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in.
I am learning peacefulness, lying by myself quietly
As the light lies on these white walls, this bed, these hands.
Plath did use examples of half-rhyme within the text, though. For example: “quietly” and “these” in lines three and four of the first stanza.
Discover more Sylvia Plath poems.
Two Scavengers in a Truck, Two Beautiful People in a Mercedes by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
This contemporary open form poem speaks about wealth and class differences in the United States. The poem is four stanzas long and does not use a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. The lines vary in length, from as few as two words up to as many as nine. Here is an example of the lack of form in Ferlinghetti’s verse:
And the two scavengers up since four a.m.
grungy from their route
on the way home
The older of the two with grey iron hair
and hunched back
The poem’s use of open form, or free verse, allows the scene to play out naturally. It feels unforced and as though anyone in any city (despite the poem being set in San Francisco) could be observing the two pairs of people.
Read more Lawrence Ferlinghetti poems.
What Are Years by Marianne Moore
‘What Are Years’ is a famous Moore poem written in free verse or open form. It is twenty-seven lines long and contained within one text block (known as block form). The poem is not structured with a consistent pattern of rhyme. Instead, there are a few end words scattered throughout the lines that rhyme. Take a look at this excerpt:
his form straight up. Though he is captive,
his mighty singing
says, satisfaction is a lowly
thing, how pure a thing is joy.
This is mortality,
this is eternity.
Explore Marianne Moore’s poetry.
Open Form or Closed Form?
These two contrasting types of poetry signal whether or not the poet chose to conform to a specific poetic structure. If the open is written in open form, as noted above, it can also be described as free verse. This means the poet did not use a rhyme scheme (like AABBCC) or a metrical pattern (like iambic pentameter). The poem may rhyme at times, but the rhyming words are not structured in the form of a pattern. The form is “open.”
Closed form informs readers that the poet puts restrictions on their writing. They chose a form (which could be one of many) and ensured that their lines mostly stuck to that form. It could be as simple as an ABAB rhyme scheme or as complicated as the structure of a villanelle.
An example of open form poetry is ‘Gale in April’ by Robinson Jeffers. The poem is written in free verse. This means that it does not use repeated end rhymes or a strict pattern of rhythm (known as a meter).
Open form means no restrictions on the author’s use of rhyme (or lack thereof). Closed form means a few strict rules the author chooses to follow. For example, the rhyme scheme of a villanelle has specific requirements one has to follow to create a poem of its complexity.
Closed form poems come in many forms. For example, ‘Sonnet 116’ by William Shakespeare (an example of a Shakespearean sonnet with a rhyme scheme of ABABCDCDEFEFGG) and ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ by John Keats which uses strict iambic pentameter.
Poets write in open form, also known as free verse, in order to experiment with structure and rhyme. They may not want to feel restricted to specific kinds of repetition or may want to try out something new. Others use open form because they want to create narrative poems that feel more natural.
Related Literary Terms
- Blank Verse: a kind of poetry that is written in unrhymed lines but with a regular metrical pattern.
- Contemporary Period: refers to written works that were created after World War II. Prior to this was the modernist period.
- Broken Rhyme: an interesting type of rhyme that occurs when a poet cuts a word in half to create rhyme.
- Cadence: the natural rhythm of a piece of text, created through a writer’s selective arrangement of words, rhymes, and the creation of meter.
- Dimeter: refers to a specific arrangement of syllables in poetry. If a poem is written in dimeter, that means that the lines contain four syllables each.
- Read: Every You Need to Know about Rhyme Schemes in Poetry
- Watch: The Pleasure of Poetic Pattern
- Listen: Rhyming and Poetry