How to Write in Free Verse
  • 5-minute read
  • 18th August 2022

How to Write in Free Verse

Free verse is a form of poetry that doesn’t follow a formal structure, rhythm, or rhyming scheme. Throwing off the constrictions of more rigid forms, like sonnets and limericks, allows you to express your ideas without having to follow so many rules, but that doesn’t mean writing in free verse is easy.

In fact, the lack of rules can make free verse more of a challenge because the writer has to figure out every detail – how long the poem will be, how many stanzas it should have, whether to use rhyme, etc.

If you’re feeling inspired to have a go at writing in free verse, but you’re not sure how to begin, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we’ll guide you through the basic steps to creating free verse poetry:

1. Pick a theme.

2. Freewrite your ideas.

3. Draft your free verse poem.

4. Read the poem aloud.

5. Don’t forget to proofread!

To learn about each of these steps in detail, read on below.

1. Decide What Your Poem Will Be About

You may already know what the subject of your poem will be. Perhaps your tutor has assigned a topic, or you’re inspired to write about a favorite place or a cherished memory.

If you’re uncertain what your poem should be about, be sure to choose something that you have strong feelings about. Other than that, there really are no restrictions. Your poem could be about a first date, a breakup, a new sofa, or an old pair of shoes. If something makes you feel excited, heartbroken, ecstatic, or nostalgic, you can write a poem about it. 

2. Set a Timer and Start Freewriting

The next step is to jot down words and phrases connected with your chosen subject. You can do this on a screen if you like, but we suggest using a good old-fashioned pen and paper; freewriting is all about spilling your ideas onto the page without thinking too much. With a keyboard, it’s all too easy to hit the delete key if you’re unsure about something.

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Set yourself a time limit of, say, 10 or 15 minutes, and then write without stopping until the timer goes off. Write whatever comes to mind, whether it’s single words, phrases, or whole lines.

Try to engage all the senses as you do this. For example, if you chose to write about a first date, your notes might include pink, blinking neon sign, soft piano melody, spicy cologne, salty olives, and squishy velvet chairs.

3. Use Your Best Ideas in a First Draft

Now it’s time to write your poem! Expand on the ideas and images you’ve recorded to describe the scene or event your poem will explore. Enhance the mental images and emotions you want to portray by using poetic devices. Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Alliteration is the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of a series of words (e.g., “once I wandered and wished”). Even though the word “once” doesn’t begin with a “w” like “wandered” and “wished,” it’s still part of the alliteration here because it starts with the same sound.
  • Metaphor is the presentation of one thing as something else entirely to show a similarity between them:

The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas (Alfred Noyes)

  • Consonance is like alliteration, but the repeated sound can be in the middle or at the end of words, rather than at the beginning.
  • Symbolism is the use of a tangible thing to represent something abstract (e.g., a rose for romantic love or a storm for emotional turmoil). If the same symbol is used repeatedly in a poem, it’s called a motif.
  • Onomatopoeia occurs when a word imitates the sound of the thing it describes. Onomatopoeic words include flutter, rumble, sizzle, and splash.

5. Read the Poem Out Loud

Poetry is meant to be spoken, so say the words aloud as you’re composing your poem. This will help you achieve the sounds and rhythm that best express your ideas. Think about the emotions evoked by the sounds of the words themselves. Do they roll smoothly off the tongue? Or are they tricky to enunciate, like tongue twisters?

A series of short, harsh sounds might imply violence or urgency, while longer vowels and soft consonants suggest something gentler.

Hearing your poem spoken aloud will also help you to instinctively know where to place commas and line breaks that prompt readers to pause and reflect on your words.

6. Check Your Poem for Errors

Even though poetry – especially free verse – does away with the normal rules of grammar and punctuation, you still want your poem to be free of spelling mistakes and other writing errors.

Our proofreaders are human beings – not robots – who know the difference between an accidental sentence fragment and a deliberate one used for literary effect. In other words, we proofread poetry without destroying it! If you want to see what we can do, check out our service today with a 500-word free trial.

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