Free Verse Versus Form Poetry

Although I often write in free verse, I have a certain fondness for poetry forms, not only the standard, well-known ones like sonnets, haikus, and sestinas, but especially the weird and obscure like the minute and alphabet poems. In fact, my obsession with them has gone so far, I have repeatedly invented my own.

I am pretty sure you already know what a poetry form is, but recently while conversing with a seasoned poet I never met before at a local open poetry reading, I was shocked to discover that she had no clue what I was talking about. So just in case, you are like that particular lady, form poetry is simply a type of poem (like the previously mentioned sonnets, haikus, and sestinas) that has a distinct set of rules regarding how the poem is to be written, such as the lengths of line, the number of lines and stanzas, subject matter, etc.

When I was teaching poetry workshops for children in libraries and elementary schools, I would often compare writing free verse and form poetry with free play or playing a game such as hopscotch or tic-tac-toe. One is play that is only restricted by your imagination, and the other has a set of rules which you need to follow. Both can be extremely fun, it all depends on what type of play you are in the mood at the time.

Many poets have told me that they could never write a form poem, that they would find it much too difficult and restricting. Yet I actually feel the opposite to be true. For me, it can much easier to follow the rules of a poetry form, which liberates me from having to make such needling decisions as how long to make the lines, or how many lines or stanzas to write. Rhyming too can be freeing, limiting your choice of words at the end of your lines, instead of forcing you to choose the perfect word from almost infinite possibilities.

If you have never tried writing poetry forms before, please give it a try. It is not as daunting as you might think, and you just might enjoy the process. To that end, in my next blog post, I plan to introduce you to a brand new poetry form, one that I invented myself….

4 thoughts on “Free Verse Versus Form Poetry

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