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free verse
Posted by: drpeternsz (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 25, 2005 04:39PM

Thought I would share with you a few words on free verse:


There has been so much scribbling about a new fashion in poetry, that I may perhaps be pardoned this brief recapitu­lation and retrospect.
In the spring or early summer of 1912, 'H. D.', Richard Aldington
and myself decided that we were agreed upon the three principles
following: ,-~s

1. Direct treatment of the'thing'whether subjective or objective.
2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of the
musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome. ——-

Upon many points of taste and of predilection we differed, but agreeing upon these three positions we thought we had as much right to a group name, at least as much right, as a number of French 'schools' proclaimed by Mr Flint in the August number of Harold Monro's magazine for 1911.
This school has since been 'joined' or 'followed' by numerous people who, whatever their merits, do not show any signs of agree­ing with the second specification. Indeed vers libre has become as prolix and as verbose as any of the flaccid varieties that preceded it. It has brought faults of its own. The actual language and phrasing is often as bad as that of our elders without even the excuse that the words are shovelled in to fill a metric pattern or to complete the noise of a rhyme-sound. Whether or no the phrases followed by the followers are musical must be left to the reader's decision. At times I can find a marked metre in 'vers libres', as stale and hackneyed as any pseudo-Swinburnian, at times the writers seem to follow no musical structure whatever. But it is, on the whole, good that the field should be ploughed. Perhaps a few good poems have come from the new method, and if so it is justified.
1 A group of early essays and notes which appeared under this title in Pa~ vannes and Divisions (1918). 'A Few Dont's' was first printed in Poetry, I, 6 (March, 1913).

The complete essay appears in Literary Essays of Ezra Pound,


Re: free verse
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 25, 2005 05:12PM


Re: free verse
Posted by: drpeternsz (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 25, 2005 05:22PM

No critique could apply to you, JOhn, if it were general.

Re: free verse
Posted by: Desi (Moderator)
Date: September 25, 2005 06:11PM

"is often as bad as that of our elders" grin

Very nice read! Thank you.

Re: free verse
Posted by: vic jefferies (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 25, 2005 07:54PM

(from) A Free Verse Review
by CJ Dennis

I love writing free verse because it
Is so easy.
You don't have to rhyme or
Trouble about metre.
It is just prose sawn up into
Unequal lengths. A lot of
People who write it are very
Proud of their efforts; but I am
Not. However, let
Us see what we can do
With a little review.
(That's all wrong, because it rhymes; but that's a habit not easily
overcome, and we make up for it by being a little more erratic
than usual concerning the length of the lines.)

CJ Dennis, who died in 1938, was perhaps Australia's most prolific poet and wrote well in excess of four thousand poems. He was employed by a number of newspapers to write satirical poems on daily events. He wrote many well loved poems in the vernacular language of the day and left a huge legacy of much loved poetry and prose which is still in print today.

Re: free verse
Posted by: IanB (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 25, 2005 10:21PM

Good one Vic!

Re: free verse
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: September 25, 2005 10:55PM

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Muse Scorned
---Dawn Mungovan

I turned my back
momentarily at best
off you went
to HER
no glances back
no thoughts of me
just skipping merrily
to a new beat
have I not
molded you
into the
free verse poet
you've become
thinking you loyal
I loosened the reigns
from your psyche
now I
weep in the corner
blotting my eyes with
a pamphlet for
Cast-Aside Muses
your excitement
over this new
metered muse
and her
sing-song sonnets
sickens me
I admit
wanting you to fail
and beg my forgiveness
I watch this dance
I give you
fair warning
I am impatient
and armed with
a healthy supply
of duct tape


Re: free verse
Posted by: drpeternsz (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 26, 2005 03:10AM

C.J.Dennis really does not know much about what he writes about in this case, evidently.

This is too snide a remark on my part. I guess he was trying to be funny. Pound suggestes elsewhere that the phrase 'free verse' is somewhat of an oxymoron, since all verse, even bad verse, is itself subject to some sort of poetics or another. My evffort was to provide the three most famous of the criteria for writing non-metrical un-rhymed verse in the last century. Remember, Pound was trying to renovate English vesification almost ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO. The hope is always that we make some progress in our workd from time to time.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/26/2005 03:50AM by drpeternsz.

Re: free verse
Posted by: drpeternsz (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 26, 2005 03:12AM

I like the humour of this.

Re: free verse
Posted by: joet (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 26, 2005 08:10AM

Here we go again. From no less an authority than the OED, we learn that 'free verse' cannot be considered verse at all, since 'verse' is defined there as a "noun: writing arranged with a metrical rhythm." If we are to subscribe to the OED's authority (and why shouldn't we?) Pound's third principle actually defeats his own argument that non-metrical writing is poetic.

Why insist on defining free verse as poetry when, clearly, it is not? There should be no shame in calling something that is beautifully written, prose, if that's what it truly is.

Naming your cat, Rover, won't make him a dog.


Re: free verse
Posted by: Chesil (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 26, 2005 10:34AM

If that was the over-riding definition, then some other definitions included in the entry, such as verse in the bible would be incorrect.

That the OED has been unable, on this occasion, to keep up with popular usage is unfortunate, maybe they will get around to updating. The OED is an awesome reference work and I consult it often, but a dictionary's job is not to define meaning for all time but to reflect how the population at large use words.

Not that I agree wholly with Pound, but free verse is a legitimate form of poetry.


Re: free verse
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 26, 2005 10:37AM

From O HOLY COW, the poetry of Phil Rizzuto

Field of Butterflies

If you don't get a little,
A few butterflies,
No matter what you do,
On the first day of anything,
You're not human

April 21, 1991
New York at Kansas City
Storm Davis pitching to Steve Sax
First inning, no outs, bases empty
(First batter, opening day)
No score

My Secret

When I'm driving
To Yankee Stadium and back,
I do it so often.

I don't remember passing lights.
I don't remember paying tolls
Coming over the bridge.

Going back over the bridge,
I remember...

August 19, 1992
Oakland at New York
Mike Moore pitching to Mel Hall
Fifth inning, one out, bases empty
Yankees lead 4-1

Hero or the Goat

All right, this is it,
The whole season coming down
To just one ball game,
And every mistake will be magnified,
And every great play will be magnified,
And it's a tough night for the players,
I'll tell ya.
I know last night, being in the same situation many times
With the great Yankee teams of the past,
you stay awake,
And you dream,
And you think of what might be,
If you are the hero or the goat.

October 14, 1976
Final game
Kansas City at New York
Pregame show

Prayer for the Captain

There's a little prayer I always say
Whenever I think of my family or when I'm flying,
When I'm afraid, and I am afraid of flying.
It's just a little one. You can say it no matter what,
Whether you're Catholic or Jewish or Protestant or
And I've probably said it a thousand times
Since I heard the news on Thurman Munson.

It's not trying to be maudlin or anything.
His Eminence, Cardinal Cooke, is going to come out
And say a little prayer for Thurman Munson.
But this is just a little one I say time and time again,
It's just: Angel of God, Thurman's guardian dear,
To whom his love commits him here there or everywhere,
Ever this night and day be at his side,
To light and guard, to rule and guide.

For some reason it makes me feel like I'm talking to
Or whoever's name you put in there,
Whether it be my wife or any of my children, my parents
or anything.
It's just something to keep you really from going bananas.
Because if you let this,
If you keep thinking about what happened, and you can't
understand it,
That's what really drives you to despair.

Faith. You gotta have faith.
You know, they say time heals all wounds,
And I don't quite agree with that a hundred percent.
It gets you to cope with wounds.
You carry them the rest of your life.

August 3, 1979
Baltimore at New York
Pregame show

The Man in the Moon

The Yankees have had a traumatic four days.
Actually five days.
That terrible crash with Thurman Munson.
To go through all that agony,
And then today,
You and I along with the rest of the team
Flew to Canton for the services,
And the family....
Very upset.

You know, it might,
It might sound corny.
But we have the most beautiful full moon tonight.
And the crowd,
Enjoying whatever is going on right now.
They say it might sound corny,
But to me it's some kind of a,
Like an omen.

Both the moon and Thurman Munson,
Both ascending up into heaven.
I just can't get it out of my mind.
I just saw that full moon,
And it just reminded me of Thurman.
And that's it.
August 6, 1979
Baltimore at New York
Ron Guidry pitching to Lee May
Fifth inning, bases empty, no outs
Orioles lead 1-0

These Heaters

They're no good.
Because at my height
It goes over my head
And hits the guy in back of me.

I mean...

They were not built,
These heaters were not built
For normal human beings.
They were built for people like Seaver.

April 27, 1992
Texas at New York
Scott Sanderson pitching to Geno Petralli
Fourth inning, one out, one base runner
Yankees lead 3-1

They Own The Wind

i tell ya,
did you take notice of the flag?
i couldn't believe it.
just as jim rice came to the plate,
the wind started blowing to left field.
it not only helped yastrzemski's homer,
but it hurt jackson's,
the wind was blowing to right field
when jackson hit the fly ball,
when yaz hit the homer
the wind was blowing to left field,
kept it from going foul.
strike one to piniella.
somebody told me
the red sox control the elements up here
i didn't believe 'em until today

October 2, 1978
New York at Boston
Mike Torrez pitching to Lou Piniella

To Be Alone

Hey White
You know where your loyalties are?

Right here.
The old pinstripes.


You never wore them
So you have a right to sing the blues.

May 12, 1987
New York at Chicago
Bill Long pitching to Dan Pasqua
Second inning, no outs, bases empty
White Sox lead 1-0

Re: free verse
Posted by: joet (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 26, 2005 02:25PM

"Free verse is a legitimate form of poetry." To which I merely ask, "why?" What is it that makes something that is non-rhyming and non-metrical poetic? I've heard the argument that free verse is poetic, but I've never heard anyone declare why.

Pound's own, "Erat Hora" is a beautiful piece of writing: vivid in its descriptiveness and stunning for its brevity. I admire its beauty, yet, I don't accept that it is poetry. Why must I? More pointedly, though, why do Pound and others believe it important for me to do so. It sounds as if they are saying that beautifully written prose is intrinsically inferior to poetry.

I don't buy that.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/26/2005 02:26PM by joet.

Re: free verse
Posted by: drpeternsz (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 26, 2005 03:06PM

I guess, Joe, that you do not draw any distinctions between verse, which does depend on meter, which, by the way, does not necessaritly have to be of the traditional sort derived from Greek and Latin, and poetic writing, which comesin a wide varianty of shapoes and siED definition you quote, one of my favorite kinds of verse is not poetic because it does not depend on metrical measures, but rather depends on the eqivalent of syllabization in its original language. I refer to haiku poetry which depends on an arrangement of sounds.



Re: free verse
Posted by: drpeternsz (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 26, 2005 03:25PM


I think there is much to wha I fall to calling my work 'writing' rather than either poetry or prose or some third term. Sometimes I want it to be beautiful, but it is not that always either. In the end, I want ir to be insightful. I prefer that it be what I think is good writing. I don't think insightful, well-written passages are all poetry, but I do not think poetry is restricted to any one set of poetic devices. some languages has so many words that rhyme that the poets in those languages seldom depend on rhyme to bring poetic effect. Some languages don't seem to use scannsion. William Carlos Williams attempts to avoic metaphor even. My point is that I don't understand why should we adopt an exclusive definition of poetry anyway? I try to find the ways in which pieces are poetic to my sense of what that terms tells me something about the piece. This admittedly makes some workds poems for me that another might not consider poems. But I see no reason to poetry, free verse, haiku, or any of the other more traditional non-metrical, non-rhyming writings from consideration as poems. There are so many wonderful means of writing thoughtful poetry --from the various figurative forms to brilliant imagistic descriptions than also areused in what we normally call prose. My disertation was entitled: 'Poetry: OPen to Interpretation' so this is not a newidea to me. When I write poetry myself the one thing I always depend on is my imagination. At the same time I try to write a work thattechnical accords with the ound makes in his comments, even though he was speaking almost a hundred years ago, and I really do write as if I were living in the twenty-first century.



Re: free verse
Posted by: IanB (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 26, 2005 06:50PM

Johnny, that Rizzuto poem is an evocative piece of free verse. Am I right in understanding that it is a single poem, made up of different parts? Is the part titled 'They Own The Wind' the last part which goes all the way to the end, or should there be an extra line break before 'To Be Alone' which is the next title? Does that part then go all the way to the end, or is the line 'No' the title of the final part?

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/26/2005 06:52PM by IanB.

Re: free verse
Posted by: Chesil (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 26, 2005 07:19PM


Nobody says YOU have to accept it is legitimate. That is your choice, however your opinion is not shared by most.

Much free verse has underlying meter often iambic with occasional metrical substitutions for impact. Not poetry? Cloe examination of much of Whitman's work would find a lot of regular iambic lines. Just as Keats might have used a metrical substitution to great effect in his work, so Whitman chose to make those substitutions in an enlarged and wholly different way but his work still has enormous beauty and, in my view, is very dissimilar in any way to prose.

At what point does something cease to be poetry? If it has to be completely regular meter, then you will disbar many great poems from being poetry.

Poems suggest their ideas in a quite different manner to prose and good poems in any school use many traditional poetic devices to create their music. Because they are not in a consistent iambic, or any other, meter does not make them prose.


Re: free verse
Posted by: joet (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 26, 2005 07:49PM


Much of Whitman's work is, as you say, enormously beautiful. I am always deeply moved by his "Dirge For Two Veterans," which is just one example of his power to arouse emotion. Yet, when I compare even so great a work as that to Tennyson's treasures or to Shakespeare's sonnets, I can't help but feel that the latter two have written true poetry while Whitman has not. If "Dirge..." qualifies as free verse, perhaps it is something else that is neither poetry nor prose. For now, I think I will dispense with the labels and just enjoy the reading.


Re: free verse
Posted by: vic jefferies (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 26, 2005 08:19PM


You may rest assured that CJ Dennis knew well that which he spoke of.

To quote another great Australian poet, Adam Lindsay Gordon(he was actually an englishman but as there a bust of him in Westminister Abbey's Poet's Corner and he lived in Australia for some time we claim him,)
"They are rhymes rudely strung with intent less of sound than of words." (from.....A Dedication.)

Though it pains me to admit it, free verse is obviously a legitimate and recognised form of poetry. The problem is many of those who write "free verse" today do not write poetry. They present "chopped up prose" and believe that its form or appearance makes it a poem. It does not!

A poem is a poem is a poem! No matter how you write or present good poetry on a page (rhyming metrical, free verse, blank verse, whatever)it remains a poem and prose remains prose!

Re: free verse
Posted by: IanB (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 26, 2005 09:08PM

To adapt a famous saying: in the house of poetry there are many mansions.

Re: free verse
Posted by: Chesil (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 26, 2005 10:11PM

Right, Ian. What poetry is and isn't has occupied many great minds over many many years. I doubt we will ever find a definition that might be accepted universally.

Re: free verse
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: September 26, 2005 10:20PM

I hold in highest esteem those poets who use free verse, because it is the medium they choose, knowing that other paths of expression do exist.

Meltdown in Iambic Tetrameter
--Dawn Mungovan

I chose to fight and not to flee,
From troubled feelings haunting me.
One look, within my weary soul,
Exposed an ever-gaping hole.

With introspective ink I write,
To bring foreclosure to my plight.
On form and meter I rely,
While keeping free verse standing by.

In healing cadence, new to me.
(Stagnation came from living free.)
A new persona will be found,
Before I leave this form-go-round.

Through sonnets, nonets, villanelle,
My structured fears I hope to quell.
Shall I find comfort in these forms
Or run back to my free verse norms?

I might be seeking after all,
The haven of a hallowed hall.
Long known to poets of great worth,
And find therein my own re-birth.


Re: free verse
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 27, 2005 12:11AM


It is not a single poem with parts, each separate poem ends with the description of which broadcast it is from, there is an entire book of them.
"No" is also not separate, see below:
"To Be Alone"

Hey White
You know where your loyalties are?

Right here.
The old pinstripes.


You never wore them
So you have a right to sing the blues.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/27/2005 12:12AM by JohnnySansCulo.

Re: free verse
Posted by: Veronika (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 27, 2005 07:17AM

Some thoughts on this:

I have a writer friend. She has been recently writing really short compositions - she calls it micro prose - but I call it poetry in prose. Most of her language is typical of poetry - the sentences are simple, the grammar is rather simple, there is loads of parallelism - everything seems to be more based on music than on on sense. But she insists it's prose. And I don't argue :-)

Ivan Cankar, a great Slovenian writer (often compared to Kafka) wrote poetic prose (among other stuff). But an american friend, when she read it in translation named it prose poetry - to which I objected, saying "he wasn't a poet at all". Then we both had a good laugh.

"What's in a name?"

The line between poetry and prose is not as clear cut as it was 200 years ago.

Still - there are parts of speech we associate more with poetry than with prose. It is a quality one can hear. Pound said - in his ABC - that if one wants to learn about prosody one should first of all listen - listen!

Also, prose has a different way of telling a story. If you will - it's like comparing a big fresco to a miniature. They both use lines, shapes, colours - but the context is different. The way they say what they want to say is different.

Note - I am using the word poetry in a rather narrow sense - of lyric poetry. It is the prevalent form of poetry today.

When I started writing poems, I first wrote in "free verse". Only it wasn't free verse, but rather formless strings of words, ackwardly put together - with a egocentric wish to express something. Then I started to write rhymed and metered poems. It was at first only because I was curious - can I do it? I learned a lot form writing in traditional forms. But the most important thing I have learnt was that poems always take a form - be it a "one time", original, organic, experimental (or whatever you want to call it) form or a traditional one like a sonnet. "How" is what makes a poem. (Not just "what")

Writing free verse seems easy. But as Eliot said: "No verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job." I often find it harder - since there are no rules, no safety net, if you will - my intuition has to be spot on all the time, perfectly tuned ... And that - at least for me - takes as much discipline (if not more) as writing a sonnet or a french ballad.

Re: free verse
Posted by: Desi (Moderator)
Date: September 27, 2005 07:52AM

"The line between poetry and prose is not as clear cut as it was 200 years ago."

but then again, 2000 years ago, prose (well, everything; history, geography, etc.) was written in verse. Oral tradition had to do a lot with that, of course.

"my intuition has to be spot on all the time, perfectly tuned"
a lot of people believe their intuition is top on right the first time they jot something down and they call it free verse.

I think most objections are not against the form of free verse. I think most of us know at least a couple of free verse poems we admire and like. It is more the constant abuse of the form.

However, there are also very very bad rhymed poems. Written with the same effort: if it rhymes, it is a poem.

We just don't like bad quality. And unfortunately, bad quality is still a majority out there.

Re: free verse
Posted by: joet (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 27, 2005 10:14AM

In determining whether something is poetry or not, I often defer to the words of Hugh Clary, frequent contributor to this forum: "Magic. It's gotta have magic." To which I would add: Music. It's gotta have music.

While I find beauty in some free verse, such as the two works I cited above, I rarely find magic, and I almost never hear music.


Re: free verse
Posted by: Veronika (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 27, 2005 10:26AM

True. Print changed how we understand literature. But I would insist that poetry must retain that mellodic quality - reading poetry aloud is for me the ulitmate test.

I agree the form of free verse is often misused. But rather than abuse I would call it misunderstanding - about the name "free" verse. Knowledge about forms, languge, about poetry in general - is perhaps not necessary to write a good poem, but it helps. A lot.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/28/2005 05:26AM by Veronika.

Re: free verse
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 27, 2005 11:24AM

Substitute "Jazz" where you see "Free Verse", and "Classical Music" where you see "Traditional Poetry" and see if ti still bears up.

Re: free verse
Posted by: Desi (Moderator)
Date: September 27, 2005 11:43AM

I don't think it does, as Jazz has to follow some specific rules and is to a certain extent spontaneous (so they need strict rules to be able to make music in harmony at all). Free verse, in my opinion, is not necessarily a first draft. I'm sure there is another word for instant writing.

Re: free verse
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 27, 2005 11:59AM

MY point exactly..I stand by TANSTAAFL

Re: free verse
Posted by: Desi (Moderator)
Date: September 27, 2005 12:04PM

who is talking about lunch?


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/27/2005 12:06PM by Desi.

Re: free verse
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 27, 2005 12:48PM

I'll ALWAYS talk about lunch ! unless I'm eating it, then I'll talk about Dinner !

I maintain that "free" verse is subject to it's own set of rules, or at least parameters.

Re: free verse
Posted by: drpeternsz (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 27, 2005 05:36PM

'Form is never more than an extention of content.' Bob Creeley. I come full dircle on this. But I want to come into it in a new way,in a way that says, "don't be afraid to be free." just at the moment that I want to say 'go to the thing itself' and 'write fo people's hair stands up on end' and say 'make it matter' and 'make it ne' meaning in the end it all comes out of language itself the ancient mythopoetic root of all language -- prose, poetry, verbal discourse, whatever. Do no, poetry never seems to be just prose cut up into pieces unless the poet makes a poem by cutting prose up into little peices, and then you might just talk about Dada, which is ok too. But some people don't like Dada, and that's ok too. it is always ok to not like what someone else likes.

But consider how the content of your intuition can be expressed so as to so excite your audience that no other expression of that content will do quite the same.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/28/2005 12:23AM by drpeternsz.

Re: free verse
Posted by: vic jefferies (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 27, 2005 08:29PM

Free verse: you can leave out the metre; you can leave out the rhyme but remember: you can't leave out the poetry!

Re: free verse
Posted by: drpeternsz (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 28, 2005 12:24AM


Re: free verse
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 28, 2005 08:33AM

I wonder who (yeah)
Who wrote the book of love ?

--Davis, Malone, Patrick
(c)Nom Music (BMI)

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