by Allison Stein
“Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.” Thomas Gray’s words echo my heart’s definition of free verse poetry. This form offers an exciting and profound journey for the writer and reader alike; it gives people a chance to live in unfamiliar worlds created by intangible—but genuine—emotion. As I’ve learned how to improve my free verse poetry over the years, I have developed a writing process that has aided me as I’ve sought to express my ideas; I would like to share that process with you in hopes that you, too, will enjoy crafting free verse poems.
1. Identify What You Love About Poetry: Before you begin your free verse poem, consider what techniques you would like to incorporate. Read a wide range of free verse poetry, select your favorite pieces, and determine why you like them best. Analyze each poem carefully and think deeply about its meaning. You can learn from the work you feel passionate about by emulating some of its aspects. For instance, do you love the imagery and powerful words one author uses? Or do the compelling ideas and strong message from another writer inspire you? Maybe the poems that enthuse you most are those with figurative language, such as metaphor (forming a connection between different people or objects) or hyperbole (stretching the truth to make a point). Experiment with several approaches until you find one that ignites your creativity and showcases your unique voice.
2. Find Inspiration: Free verse poems offer the potential of countless possibilities regarding themes; the key is discovering a topic that creates energy on the page. The subject could be an experience, nature, friendship, family—any idea that you feel a close connection to and can infuse emotion with.
3. Organize Your Thoughts: Undoubtedly, poets have different methods of writing; this gifts us with an enormous variety of poetry. However, that fact causes confusion about how to begin writing as well. Some writers suggest creating a thorough outline of ideas, whereas others believe that any plan stifles their freedom as poets. My advice is to choose whichever style of prewriting feels more natural and brings out the better in your work. If you aren’t sure, you can test out both processes to see which you favor, or you can combine the styles by jotting down words you hope to use but leaving your plan incomplete and thus open for new possibilities.
4. Write Your Heart Out: You, as a poet, have a message to give, and a free verse poem is a wonderful medium for your words. Let your ideas flow, and don’t worry if your poem isn’t exactly how you want it; any shaky areas can be worked out in the essential process of editing. For now, focus on sharing yourself with readers. Remember that you are a passionate writer; let your poem be an encapsulation of that passion.
5. Create Imagery: Imagery is vivid language that transports readers to the realm of your poetry. Not only will the use of this technique immerse readers in your writing, but it is also instrumental in the flow of a piece. To improve the imagery in your work, pay special attention to your word choice; words act as the voice of your work, so you should select them carefully. When deciding on a line, consider using descriptions to further your theme. Incorporating imagery can strengthen a free verse poem exponentially.
6. Express Emotion: Emotion is universal; moreover, it is the aspect of your writing that connects readers to your poem. To add feeling to your work, recall times you’ve been elated or upset, and use these memories to empower your writing. Words offer a clearer perspective on personal experiences; furthermore, once your emotions are illustrated through your poetry, readers can absorb the insight provided by these experiences. Most importantly, expressing emotion in your free verse poetry builds on the message encoded in your words and enables others to better relate to your work.
7. Focus on Your Beginning and Ending: When you write and proofread a free verse poem, keep in mind that the beginning and ending earn special emphasis. The beginning must capture readers’ attention; therefore, a successful start is imperative. The ending needs to be memorable, like the grand finale in a fireworks show; after reading the last word, readers should feel moved, changed, or encouraged. Since these areas have the potential to make the greatest impression on your audience, striving to improve them is essential.
8. Consider the Rhythm: True, rules about rhyme and meter are much less rigid in free verse poems than in other forms of poetry, but the writing of any poem needs to maintain balance and flow in order for readers to best grasp the concepts within. To ensure that the rhythm your words create fits well with your poem, read your writing over, and make note of pauses that throw off the flow; gingerly revisit these lines and decide if adding or removing syllables is a viable solution. Even in a free verse poem, rhythm is a fundamental facet of the writing—and reading—experience.
9. Keep It Concise: Poetry is reputably short; this means that a limited number of words is available to convey the emotion of your writing. Delete any words or phrases that don’t develop your theme. Each letter should contribute to the work as a whole, give motion to your subject, and act as reverberations of the ideas circling your mind as well as the emotions dancing in your heart.
10. Share Your Writing: After putting so much passion into your work, let others take the journey your piece offers. Whether you read your poem, publish it, or simply share it with a friend, you will be giving the world a chance to delve into your unique work. Free verse poetry offers a colossal amount of communication, connection, and encouragement; give people the opportunity to take advantage of those gifts by sharing your writing.
You can view this article and more of my work at www.amazing-kids.org.