Posts Tagged ‘Free Verse’

Are You a Blank Verse Poet?

Two blogs ago, we discussed “Free Verse” poetry and gave some examples of this “free” kind of literary expression.

This time, we’re looking at “Blank Verse,” which is defined as a type of poetry distinguished by having a regular meter but no rhyme. The meter, most commonly used with blank verse, is iambic pentameter. The iambic pentameter form often resembles the rhythms of speech, but blank verse is not the same as free verse because it employs a meter. Paradise Lost by John Milton and most of Shakespeare’s works are written in iambic pentameters.

Blank Verse has been described as probably the most common and influential form that English poetry has taken since the 16th C., and it is believed that about three-quarters of all English poetry is in blank verse.

So, what in the world is iambic pentameter? For a flowery detailed definition go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page, but in simple terms, it’s poetry with each line made up of five pairs of short/long, or unstressed/stressed, syllables.

Here’s an example of a classic iambic pentameter poetry line:

˘         /      ˘       /        ˘           /      ˘    /     ˘     /

To swell the gourd, and plump the ha- zel shells

Here’s another one with a slight variation of the accented and unaccented syllables. However, you will note that there are still only 10 syllables:

/      ˘      ˘        /      ˘      ˘       /     /         ˘       /

Now   is | the   win- | ter   of | our   dis- | con- tent

Let’s look at a  short excerpt from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, which displays an idea of what Blank Verse with its iambic pentameter is all about:


Paradise Lost


John Milton

Chapter 1 – Book 1

Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit

Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste

Brought death into the World, and all our woe,

With loss of Eden, till one greater Man

Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,

Sing, Heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top

Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire

That shepherd who first taught the chosen seed

In the beginning how the heavens and earth

Rose out of Chaos: or, if Sion hill

Delight thee more, and Siloa’s brook that flowed

Fast by the oracle of God, I thence

Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song,

That with no middle flight intends to soar.

Note that each line has ten syllables and follows the unaccented/accented syllable pattern. So, now that you’ve been enlightened about Blank Verse, do you think you’d like to try your hand at it? If so, please try to write a ten-line Blank Verse poem and send it to me via email attachment. I’d love to see your work.

Coming soon: Rhyming Verse.

Happy writing!

P.S. Time to register for the Montrose Christian Writers Conference. You won’t be sorry! If you’re a poet, you’ll want to sign up for award-winning Shirley Stevens’ work-in-progress seminar when you’ll work with Shirley on your poetry in a small class setting with limited enrollment.

Please check http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx  for all the details.






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Today’s Writer’s Tip: Are You a Poet?

Stream of sunset through white pines


What Kind of Poet Are You?

I’m sure if you’ve dabbled in any kind of poetry writing, you probably started with silly little rhyming patterns like I did. But after awhile, you might have gotten brave enough to try something different like Free Verse, Blank Verse, or Haiku. I’ve tried my hand at all of them, but I still like the simple iambic pentameter style of rhyme.

Let’s take a look at the most popular styles of poetry. In today’s blog, we’ll look at Free Verse.

Definition of Free Verse

Free Verse is a form of poetry composed of either rhymed or unrhymed lines that have no set fixed metrical pattern. The early 20th-century poets were the first to write what they called “Free Verse,” which allowed them to break from the formula and rigidity of traditional poetry. The poetry of Walt Whitman (1819-1892) provides many illustrations of Free Verse, including his poem “Song of Myself.” Here’s a stanza from that well-known poem:

“Song of Myself”
Walt Whitman

 “I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loaf and invite my soul,
I lean and loaf at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.”

This poem is pages and pages long and quite impressive. To check the entire poem, go to:


One of my favorite stanzas is this one about a horse:

A gigantic beauty of a stallion, fresh and responsive to my caresses,
Head high in the forehead, wide between the ears,
Limbs glossy and supple, tail dusting the ground,
Eyes full of sparkling wickedness, ears finely cut, flexibly moving.

His nostrils dilate as my heels embrace him,
His well-built limbs tremble with pleasure as we race around and return.

I but use you a minute, then I resign you, stallion,
Why do I need your paces when I myself out-gallop them?
Even as I stand or sit passing faster than you.


I remember reading this poem, or parts of it, in high school, and I’ve always remembered this beautiful ode to the animal that I love so much. Years, later, I wrote my own poem about a horse and had the free verse published in a small poetry booklet, “Time of Singing” (Volume 27, Fall 2000; editor: Lora Zill)


“Sorrel Majesty”


When I saw his majestic muscular beauty

And delicate sleekness,

My eager heart stood still.

He pranced with such royal dignity

That my soul bowed,

A peasant before the king.

With proud neck arched

And tail obedient to the wind,

The snorting engine nodded.

His keen ears searched.

His fiery spirit traced my slightest breath.

My trembling fingers reached

Toward a trembling velvet nose.

And we both knew …

He was mine.


So, you see, if you have a passion about any topic, you could write “poetry.” Try your hand at it; I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And send me via email a sample of your work.

Next time, we’ll take a look at Blank Verse.

Happy writing!


P.S. It’s still not too late to register for the 8th Susquehanna Valley Writers Workshop. For details and a registration form, go to:


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