Robert Frost Hates My Guts

How’s that for a title? Today’s device is Free Verse. It seems an obvious choice, since that is the kind of verse I mostly write; however, I did not choose it for that reason. I chose it because of the detailed definition Packard offers. From The Poet’s Dictionary: A Handbook of Prosody and Poetic Devices, by William Packard:

Free Verse:  Poetry of any line length and any PLACEMENT on the page, with no fixed measure or METER.

Of course there are those for whom the very idea of free verse is anathema – from T.S. Eliot in his essay “Reflections on Vers Libre,” where he says “No vers is libre for the man who wants to do a good job,” to Robert Frost, who once commented caustically, “I’d as soon write free verse as play tennis with the net down.”

The lack of any imposed or a priori form in free verse does not necessarily mean the poet has license to do anything he or she wants; on the contrary, the poet must concern him- herself even more attentively with the organic requirements that grow out of the materials at hand. […]

This is to say that the poet, in a purely intuitive state, may not necessarily be aware of external requirements of form but can trust to creating his or her own order simply by following the impulse of his or her own genius in action. […]

This being the case, a poet may be said to have an even greater responsibility to him- or herself when departing from metered lines and strict end-rhyme to embark on the uncharted terrain of free verse.  The poet must now at all points stay attuned to the peculiar form and shape of his or her own impulse or breath line or process poetry, and will independently create line placements, STANZA breaks, and all the other external manifestations of form that previously had been given to poets.

Surely some of the greatest examples of free verse writing in our literature occur in the Psalms of the Old Testament – in language that is unaccented and unmetered, having only breath units and and clusters of images and ideas to tie them together.

Wow.  I did not know that about Robert Frost.  Did you know he played tennis?  See, you can learn something new every day.

I love this discussion of free verse.  When I do workshops in the schools, I tell the students that I mostly write free verse.  I explain the difference between that and formal poetry, and when I describe free verse, I say that there are no rules, except for those rules which make for good poetry.

What follows most definitely is a draft, but since I had hoped to use this as a kind of forced writing exercise, I won’t apologize.  This draft poem is not yet titled.

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