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Examples of Free Verse Poems

Free verse poems will have no set meter, which is the rhythm of the words, no rhyme scheme, or any particular structure. Some poets would find this liberating, being able to whimsically change your mind, while others feel like they could not do a good job in that manner. Robert Frost commented that writing free verse was like “playing tennis without a net.”

Free Verse Poems: No Rules

Free verse poems do not follow the rules, and have no rhyme or rhythm; but they are still an artistic expression. They are sometimes thought to be a modern form of poetry; but, the free verse types of poem have been around for hundreds of years.
Following are examples of free verse poems:

After the Sea-Ship by Walt Whitman

After the Sea-Ship—after the whistling winds;
After the white-gray sails, taut to their spars and ropes,
Below, a myriad, myriad waves, hastening, lifting up their necks,
Tending in ceaseless flow toward the track of the ship:
Waves of the ocean, bubbling and gurgling, blithely prying,
Waves, undulating waves—liquid, uneven, emulous waves,
Toward that whirling current, laughing and buoyant, with curves,
Where the great Vessel, sailing and tacking, displaced the surface;

Fog by Carl Sandburg

The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Free Verse by Robert Graves

I now delight
In spite
Of the might
And the right
Of classic tradition,
In writing
And reciting
Straight ahead,
Without let or omission,
Just any little rhyme
In any little time
That runs in my head;
Because, I’ve said,
My rhymes no longer shall stand arrayed
Like Prussian soldiers on parade
That march,
Stiff as starch,
Foot to foot,
Boot to boot,
Blade to blade,
Button to button,
Cheeks and chops and chins like mutton.
No! No!
My rhymes must go
Turn ’ee, twist ’ee,
Twinkling, frosty,
Will-o’-the-wisp-like, misty;

Feelings, Now by Katherine Foreman

Some kind of attraction that is neither
Animal, vegetable, nor mineral, a power not
Solar, fusion, or magnetic
And it is all in my head that
I could see into his
And find myself sitting there.

Washed Away by Katherine Foreman

Nothing’s changed except me and the facts
And the sadness I didn’t mean to start.
But it feels different now you’ve said
It’s wrong, and I still can’t see your point.
And I think as water runs over my hands that
That’s really all there is or can be.
The gold is wearing off the infamous ring
And something wears away from around my heart.

After the Sea-Ship by Walt Whitman

After the Sea-Ship—after the whistling winds;
After the white-gray sails, taut to their spars and ropes,
Below, a myriad, myriad waves, hastening, lifting up their necks,
Tending in ceaseless flow toward the track of the ship.

Little Father by Li-Young Lee

I buried my father in my heart.
Now he grows in me, my strange son,
My little root who won’t drink milk,
Little pale foot sunk in unheard-of night,
Little clock spring newly wet
In the fire, little grape, parent to the future
Wine, a son the fruit of his own son,
Little father I ransom with my life.

Winter Poem by Nikki Giovanni

once a snowflake fell
on my brow and i loved
it so much and i kissed
it and it was happy and called its cousins
and brothers and a web
of snow engulfed me then
i reached to love them all
and i squeezed them and they became
a spring rain and i stood perfectly
still and was a flower

Disappointments by Vivian Gilbert Zabel

Every life has a room
where memories are stored:
A box of special occasions here,
Shelves of shared laughter there.
But back in the shadows
Lurks a trunk locked tight,
Not to be opened and searched.
There hide disappointments
Which darken every heart.

Fantasy or Life by Vivian Gilbert Zabel

So often you say you love me,
Yet you seemingly don’t know
I cannot live in fantasy’s fog,
Always in the blurred drug of dreams.
I need the clear, crisp light
Found in reality’s realm of day,
Not the darkness of mere existence.

Samson Agonistes by Milton

But patience is more oft the exercise
Of Saints, the trial of their fortitude,
Making them each his own Deliver,
And Victor over all
That tyranny or fortune can inflict.

Poetry Genres

Poetry can be classified into three types: lyric, narrative, and dramatic. An explanation and examples will be offered for each type.

Lyric Poetry

Lyric poetry deals with emotions and is written in a song-like way. Two types of lyric poetry are odes and sonnets.
Well-known authors of lyric poetry include:

  • Christine de Pizan
  • Teresa of Ávila
  • Antonio Machado
  • T. S. Eliot
  • Shakespeare

Sonnets fall into two types; the Italian sonnet and the English, or Shakespearian sonnet. Poets of the lyric style use words that express their feelings, perceptions, and moods.
An excerpt from Shakespeare’s Sonnet Number 18 follows:

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:”

Narrative Poetry

In narrative poetry a story is told about societies, cultures, and heroes. Epic poems are very long, many times covering years of events; and ballads are another type of narrative poem.
Authors of note include:

  • Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Here is an excerpt from Hiawatha by Longfellow:

“On the shore stood Hiawatha,

Turned and waved his hand at parting;

On the clear and luminous water

Launched his birch canoe for sailing,

From the pebbles of the margin

Shoved it forth into the water;

Whispered to it, “Westward! westward!”

And with speed it darted forward.”

Dramatic Poetry

Dramatic poetry is written in verse and is usually meant to be recited. It tells a story or describes an event in a dramatic and interesting way.
Poets of note include:

  • Shakespeare
  • Ben Jonson
  • Christopher Marlowe
  • Rudyard Kipling

Following is an excerpt from Kipling’s The Law of the Jungle.

“Wash daily from nose-tip to tail-tip; drink deeply, but never too deep;And remember the night is for hunting, and forget not the day is for sleep.The Jackal may follow the Tiger, but, Cub, when thy whiskers are grown,Remember the Wolf is a Hunter — go forth and get food of thine own.Keep peace withe Lords of the Jungle — the Tiger, the Panther, and Bear.And trouble not Hathi the Silent, and mock not the Boar in his lair.”

Free verse poems could be any of these types of poetry or even a combination of any of them.

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