Hello all and welcome to the third pubtalk since we (re)started this feature…

I’m so grateful for all the great discussions we have had on the first two subjects for our chats. Today I think we could tackle one of the choices we have as poets

form or free.

First of all, I don’t think that free verse is not really free at all… I think every poet uses all the poetic devices he/she can, such as meter and rhyme, but a poetic form means that you follow certain restrictions prescribed by someone else.

Let us start with forms, and as an example take a look at Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
   And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
   As any she belied with false compare.

This is first of all one of my favorite sonnets. I think it tells of true love through it’s wry humor and excellent volta, secondly I think it represents an almost perfect sonnet and the restrictions of iambic pentameter and rhymes lends itself to great reading like this one by Alan Rickman:

To me it feels very close to natural speech despite the strict form.

Writing to a form can be like laying a puzzle, and much like a sculpture has to work according to the ways of the stone, you are not totally free to write “against” the nature of the words. This restriction works both as a fence and as a banister leading you on.

Other forms have other challenges and can be a topic all in itself, and I have to say that I lack the full competence and knowledge of them.

So moving on to the free verse there are basically no rules at all, but that does not mean the poet just does what he/she wants. In a way you have to invent the form yourself, you have to fence your words and find a barrister where you can.

Take a look at:

Caged Bird by Maya Angelou

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

I think this is free verse at its best. Every line-break perfectly placed to help the reader pace the reading, with different line lengths helping to carry the flow. Listen to this reading made by various famous people:

So now for you… what is your view on writing to form vs writing free verse?

I know that most of you write free verse, but how are you doing to making it flow?

Do you have a favorite form to write or to read?

What do you find easy or hard when writing poetry to form?
Share your view and let’s discuss?