Saturday, November 15, 2014

How to Write Free-Verse Poems

Post by Catsi Eceer, co-founder

     I was looking through the poetry posts earlier, and realized that we'd never done a post on free verse poems. Seeing as I write free verse almost exclusively, I thought I'd step up to the plate and scribble something down.

     Here I am twenty minutes later, still staring at a blank screen.

     The funny thing about free verse poetry is that, well, they're free verse. There's no specific rhythm or meter. They don't need to rhyme. They don't really need to do anything, except convey an emotion. There are no rules to them. Which makes it rather difficult for me to write about them.

     A free verse poem is basically a bunch of words. But somehow, the words need to convey the emotion the writer means them to convey.

     Ack. I'm explaining this miserably.

     Okay, I'll use a poem of mine as an example. I wrote this one a while ago, but I kinda like it. 

Step one: Find some inspiration.

     I was helping out in children's church one Sunday, and there was something about hearing each of the kids pray in turn while my sister played softly on her guitar that just made me want to capture that moment in a poem. It was the kind of bitter-sweet feeling that makes you want to cry when there's really no reason to.

     You can tell a story with your words, or capture a moment in time, or carry an emotion. How you choose to write it is up to you.

Step two: Choose your words. And choose them carefully.

     When you're writing free verse, a large vocabulary is your friend. Being able to choose just the right word is very important to the quality of the poem. Because most free verse poems are quite short, each word counts.

Step three: Just write.

     After that, just let the words spill out. There's no "right way" to do this. I think everyone writes a little differently. Some people might write all of the poem at once, then go through and edit. I tend to edit as I write, meaning I'll go back and fix up each line as I put it down. Do whatever works for you.

Step four: Fix it up.

     Try reading your poem out loud. Even though it doesn't have a set rhythm, the words should still flow. Make sure all of the lines run smoothly into one another, and the stanzas into one another.

     That's pretty much it. Four easy steps to writing a free verse poem.

     Since I promised you an example, here's mine:


Head bowed, eyes closed
A dozen hands-folded kids
The whisper of “Amen”
And the soft strum of the guitar

“Dear God, please help Mommy and Daddy;”
The little girl across from me prays,
eyes squeezed shut tight;
“Make our family happy again.”

“We love you, God:”
The last chorus of Amen
And I look into her eyes
She knows God will make it happen

I want faith like that
so even when it’s tough
I can keep praying

Any questions? Got a poem you want to share? Let me know in the comments!

Catsi Eceer is an aspiring author of fantasy and dystopian novels. To learn more about her, visit our "About Us" page.

We have two current contests, one is a holiday poetry contest, which you can find here. The other is an autumn contest for poetry, prose, and art, but the deadline is just days away! See the guidelines here.

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