« Reflection on chapter 7 | Main | Punctuation for the People »

Not so easy as you'd think

Hamilton, Essential Literary Terms (226-246) -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

"Although the American poet Robert Frost famously dismissed writing in free verse as analogous to 'playing tennis with the net down,' and critics have occasionally called for a return to metrics, free verse has become the most frequent poetic form in modern English poetry."

I think I kind of disagree with Robert Frost here. I think in some ways free verse can be even harder to write than poetry with a fixed meter, precisely because it could be really easy to just view it as a type of writing where you don't have to follow rules and you can do anything you want. People will be more easily impressed when you follow a preconceived rhythmic pattern or rhyme scheme and are still able to get across what you want to say, but unless you really carefully craft a free verse poem people will tend to dismiss it as a few random thoughts you just scribbled down without any regard to aesthetics. You'd really have to work harder to make sure your writing will be appreciated. As somebody who doesn't write poetry, I'm more drawn to the idea of writing according to the specific patterns mentioned in the book so as to make sure I'm actually writing "poetry." I think in order to get to the point where you can write good free verse poetry you'd really have to have studied the other forms very closely so you can sort of invent your own form that could work just as well as the others. I agree much more with the philosophy that free verse is a "passionate dialogue" with the poetry of the past; to ignore the past conventions of poetry completely would be to just write freewheeling gobbledygook nobody's going to appreciate.

Comments (2)


I think one of the reasons free verse has gotten such a bad rap is because so many lazy or novice poets want to use it to create poetry without doing any work (it's the same as using the age-old abab rhyme scheme. It's considered poetry, but people don't often take it seriously.) I prefer rhymed poetry to anything because you can very easily dissect it to see how much work went into it, whereas with free verse you really don't know that someone didn't just scribble it down (if you'll pardon the double negative.) It's hard to want to give a lot of praise to something that might look the same as the original, which was scribbled on a napkin in five minutes. I definitely think there are positive sides to free verse, though, and I know that it is probably challenging for the people who do seriously write free verse to get the credit they deserve. Just like anything, there are positive and negative aspects to free verse, I suppose.

Hallie, those are some excellent poetic thoughts for a Saturday night. Good engagement with the issues that Matt brought up.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 7, 2007 11:07 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Reflection on chapter 7.

The next post in this blog is Punctuation for the People.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.