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What Are the Different Types of Free Verse Poems?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Different types of free verse poems are often categorized based on their subject area or similar structure, despite the freedom a poet may have in creating the work. Since these poems do not inherently have the similarities of form that other poems, such as sonnets, have, categorizing them can be more difficult. Many of these poems are found to regard similar subject matter, however, and so some of these works may be arranged based on these subjects. There are also similarities in the ways that different poets can structure their free verse poems and these categories may be considered as well.

Free verse poetry typically refers to any sort of poem written in a style free of rigid rules regarding the rhyme, meter, and overall structure. This is in great contrast to some other types of poetry, such as sonnets, haiku, and limericks, which are directly built on a standardized structural concept. While free verse poems are not written within the confines of any one style, there is typically still a sense of structure that make the work recognizable as a poem. Free verse poetry is not typically random or chaotic in nature, unless written that way to convey a greater message.

One of the most common ways to categorize free verse poems is by the subject matter. Nature is a common theme or subject in many different types of poetry; since nature itself is often seen as outside the bounds of humanity’s rules, it can be written about in a similar way to better emphasize this idea. There are also a number of poems written about the Modern and Post-modern ideas that arose in the 20th century. This is because many of these ideas were seen as revolutionary or intended as breaking free of rigid ideas from the past, and the format of such poems was intended to follow that theme.

Some free verse poems can also be categorized and discussed with regard to what types of structure a poet chooses to impose upon the poem itself. A group of poets may, for example, choose to write poems with fairly short stanzas that express single ideas and lines that might be read aloud, creating a natural and conversational rhythm for the poem. Other poets, however, could write in longer streams of consciousness that are initially difficult to read and follow. These free verse poems often reflect the themes of the poems themselves within the structure of the poem, allowing both form and function to operate together and help organize the various types of poems.

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Discussion Comments

By clintflint — On Feb 07, 2015

@Iluviaporos - I also think that traditional poetry forms need more attention from modern poets. I'm not totally against the examples of free verse that seem to be far more ubiquitous these days, but I think a real sonnet is something worth striving for.

By lluviaporos — On Feb 06, 2015

@Mor - I agree that new poets might find it handy to work within rules, but those rules need to be there for a reason and I'm not sure most new poets will have a firm grasp on how to choose and formulate them well.

Including restraints on the line lengths, for example, is usually in order to make the poem pithy, or give it an intentional shape on the page. Syllable counts can give poetry a rhythm and the kind of rhythm depends on the kind of poem.

I actually think new poets are better off either following the established rules of particular poetry forms, or approaching free verse without any rules in mind. You can still hear or see whether something is good without needing to coax it into place around arbitrary guidelines and learning what is good is how they can figure out what rules to set for themselves later on.

By Mor — On Feb 05, 2015

One thing that new poets might find handy is to make up their own rules for a poem. Many established poets will do this as well, and the rules can be as rigid or intricate as necessary.

For example, you might want your free verse poem to have four stanzas, with four lines per stanza.

Or you might prefer to do something like include a certain amount of syllables per line.

Free verse often comes across as simply being disjointed thoughts on a page rather than a work of art, so figuring out your own system of arranging them in order can help.

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