what is Free Verse?

Poets have explained that free verse is not totally free. Free verse displays some elements of form. Most free verse, for example, self-evidently continues to observe a convention of the poetic line in some sense, at least in written representations, though retaining a potential degree of linkage. Donald Hall goes as far as to say that “the form of free verse is as binding and as liberating as the form of a rondeau”,and T. S. Eliot wrote, “No verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job”.Kenneth Allott the poet/critic said the adoption by some poets of vers libre arose from ‘mere desire for novelty, the imitation of Whitman, the study of Jacobeandramatic blank verse, and the awareness of what French poets had already done to the Alexandrine in France’.The American critic John Livingston Lowes in 1916 observed ‘Free verse may be written as very beautiful prose; prose may be written as very beautiful free verse. Which is which?’

Some poets have considered free verse restrictive in its own way. In 1922 Robert Bridges voiced his reservations in the essay ‘Humdrum and Harum-Scarum.’ Robert Frost later remarked that writing free verse was like “playing tennis without a net.” William Carlos Williams said “being an art form, verse cannot be free in the sense of having no limitations or guiding principles”.Yvor Winters, the poet/critic said “the free verse that is really verse, the best that is, of W.C. Williams, H. D., Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, and Ezra Pound is the antithesis of free.

Although free verse requires no meter, rhyme, or other traditional poetic techniques, a poet can still use them to create some sense of structure. A clear example of this can be found in Walt Whitman’s poems, where he repeats certain phrases and uses commas to create both a rhythm and structure. Much pattern and discipline is to be found in free verse: the internal pattern of sounds, the choice of exact words, and the effect of associations give free verse its beauty.With the Imagistsfree verse became a discipline and acquired status as a legitimate poetic form.[14] Herbert Read however, noting that ‘the Imagist Ezra Pound gave free verse its musical structure to an extent that parodoxically it was no longer free’.
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