Letting go of Free-Verse

Me + Form = Slacker

My menu bar sports a tab titled “Forms.” I had good intentions when I added that tab. It’s handy to have a personal reference and hunting the internet for a specific form can be frustrating.

I’m feeling guilty for neglecting it (a little) Because I kind of love forms.

Forms are not the old codgerly crackpots you may envision.

I won my first ever writing contest by crafting a Shakespearean sonnet back when my boys were toddlers. I was going through a divorce at the time and was taking any job I could to get some income. Five nights a week, I was an aide in a group home for young men. Twice a week, we drove them to an art program at the Park District. While they were in class, I sat in the stairwell with my yellow legal pad and scratched out words that eventually became the winner of our community college writing contest. Consequently, I feel an emotional affinity for forms. Forms have made me more disciplined in my word choices, pacing, and prosody building.

I enjoy the practice and the rush of poetic wind when I complete one.

Confused formless poems

Without form many poems are stuck in the traffic of verbs and nouns and phrases. Slowly, meandering in the free-verse lane. Crying out for form. Form would give them structure and depth.

Formless poem


But, which form should you choose?

Oftentimes, if you search for a specific form, the explanation is like reading a calculus equation but with words-overwhelming and boring. (Sorry math geeks.)

Get out of the Free-Verse Lane

Just recently Robert Brewer at Poetic Asides posted a LIST OF 50 POETIC FORMS FOR POETS including descriptions even I can understand and follow. So helpful! He also gives poets opportunities to write a poem in that form, post it, and receive feedback from other poets. (Everyone needs a little encouragement.)

A few of my other favorite places to find descriptions of forms are: The Poetry Foundation, Creative Bloomings, DVerse, and Poetry Soup. Even Wikipedia has a list.

Most of the time, I drive my poetry car in the free-form (free-verse) lane but sometimes it’s nice to hang out at the oasis. It’s a treat to pull over, grab a cool beverage, and shift words into a new rhythm or rhyme.

I encourage you to occasionally slow your horse cart or Maserati, pull over, smell the daisies, and embrace the form. Play in it. Fill it with your empty poems. Leave free-verse behind for a few days.

You’ll surprise yourself.

A Form-Fitting Question

Do you have a favorite form site? Or do you find yourself searching several sites to understand the rules of a specific form?

Where do you and your poems fit?