poetry / reading / writing

Verse that is Free

Montmartre
Montmartre by John Althouse Cohen via Flickr

While reading A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver, the following lines from the chapter “Verse that is Free” about the evolution of free verse poetry really struck me:

“Now a line was needed that would sound and feel not like formal speech but like conversation. What was needed was a line which, when read, would feel as spontaneous, as true to the moment, as talk in the street, or talk between friends in one’s own house.”

Oliver concludes this section by saying, “The poem was no longer a lecture, it was time spent with a friend.”

I then picked up the new issue of American Poet and read “Night Madness Poem” by Sandra Cisneros:

There’s a poem in my head
like too many cups of coffee.
A pea under twenty eiderdowns.
A sadness in my heart like stone.
I’m good at making friends, and they’re good at finding me. Time with a good poem is a treasure.
What do you think about free verse? Do you agree or disagree with Oliver?
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8 thoughts on “Verse that is Free

  1. I agree with Oliver. For me, the words to a poem come very naturally – as though it was another force within me forming them, and not my own thoughts. The words that are more conversational than "poetic" feel right, like its the only way I know how to say it. So I usually don't tamper with them a whole lot because I don't want them to feel stuffy, or clunky. The flow of thought makes my poems feel authentic to me – at least that's how I perceive them as the writer. Not always sure what readers think.

  2. totally agree. I find this is the type of poetry I'm drawn to and remember the most. I guess that's why I love Sandra Cisneros so much. Her novels are like free verse to me.I love Oliver's last line …it was time spent with a friend.

  3. well, there is no disguising that I have a deep (deep, undying) love for Ms. Mary Oliver. But, her insight here about the conversational way of free-verse is true … and so aptly paired with the lines from Cisneros (you do such a great job drawing those connections, Andrea).

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