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Understanding Poetry: Fixed Form versus Free Verse

Understanding Poetry: Fixed Forms **vs** Free Verse

All poems have form, regardless if the poem is fixed or not-closed or open. The form of poetry is how the lines are arranged to display the content. Essentially, the form is how it is composed-whether there is a type of structure or not, if there is a pattern or not. The fixed form however, follows a specific set of instructions of how the poem is composed. This type of poem has a specific type of meter, rhyme scheme, or refrain---or the stanza itself can have its own form. There is a plethora of fixed forms out there-from a sestina to a haiku (and beyond) that has its own specific set of rules.

Free verse does not have a specific meter which consists of rhyming patterns and so on, but it does have form. You're free to break the poem into any line you desire, you're free to not rhyme. What you're not free to do, however, is to compose a bunch of ramblings together and call that free verse poetry. Free verse poetry has a beat to it; although its beat may be irregular. The choice of words are important and how we arrange those words into a line (syntax) is even more important; you can lose the reader in a thought, or "bounce" haphazardly across the place. How you choose the words and what you do with those words is major in this type of poetry. With carefully written and great free verse, one can feel like a song is being sung to them, or a lyric is being found-all without a fixed form.

Free verse can be seen as liberation; but many may disagree. Some see free verse intimidating, with no specific rule to follow that brings on choices of words and how to use them effectively. In contrast, a fixed form may be viewed as frustrating, as there may be a limitation on how the poet moves with the lines, as there is meter or a rhyme scheme and the such to adhere to.

Poetic devices can be used in all cases, respectfully, to their forms. Use poetic devices within your poems and explore what may come forth.

What is Meter?
A measurement of a line in poetry of stressed and unstressed syllables.
Research more here:

What is Syntax?
How words are arranged in a line

What is Rhyme Scheme?
The pattern of a poem labeled according to its pattern of rhyme sound.
For example, a rhyme scheme of aabb will have four lines; the first two lines (a) will rhyme together. The last two lines (b) will rhyme together. They will all form a stanza in poetry; not singled out.

Create a journal to experiment with different patterns and rhyme schemes. Explore meter and metrical feet. Research them, if necessary, and create a journal or glossary of ongoing education which you learned from poetry.



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