Free Verse vs. Form

I never realized there was an issue between those who prefer free verse and those who prefer form. Just so you know, when I say form I mean things like Sonnets, Villanelles and Sestinas. Free verse is when a writer kind of writes with their own rules in mind, which could be no rules at all. It depends on who you talk to, but some people seem to have negative feelings toward free verse now-a-days, because of the effect it’s having on new writers. I can say from experience that my friends who are fellow writers started out writing free verse first, and learned about form along the way. They eventually grew to dislike forms because they felt as if they couldn’t express themselves as easily as they could in free verse, causing their poetry to weaken. Simply put, they believe free verse is just easier.

When free verse started, it was an act of rebellion against “the oppressors.” In the black community, free verse was a way of completely rebelling against the slave owners. People like Walt Whitman was also in favor for free verse because of that rebellion as well. Back then free verse had a reason for its existence, and writers today who favor formed poetry believe free verse now has no reason and is causing poetry to kind of become stale. Also, because newer poets flock to free verse, they aren’t learning about form, and because they don’t know too much about the past styles of poetry, their poetry isn’t as strong. This is what I interpreted from the essays I’ve read, anyway.

From researching about this I can tell that I’m a fan of both. And to be honest, I see form in free verse as well. By reading collections by poets and then writing my own poems, I’ve noticed more and more different styles in free verse. They may not be as strict as writing 14 lines with a rhyme scheme and a volta, but form is still working within free verse. What I love about free verse is that it’s changing up form to suit the poem. There are tons of poets who will write a sonnet but break a few rules so it can help the poem. So it’s not an exact sonnet, but it’s still a sonnet.

I do wish more writers (like my friends) were more fans of form, but really I think it depends on what the poem asks for.

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