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How to Write Free-Verse Poems

December 7, 2020
By Anna Hunt

Panagiota Lilikaki is an English teacher who knows that imagination and simple crafts and activities go together as spurs to creativity. 

“In my 8th grade English class, I guided my students into writing informational essays by following Malia Wollan's writing style. Wollan publishes her own articles weekly in the New York Times Magazine, and I love reading them every Sunday!”

“I have submitted some of the articles that my students wrote to The National Herald. I feel that they captured the journalist's style while also having fun,” Lilikaki said – and the tips from authors wise-beyond-their-years are delightful. Anna Hunt's How to Write Free-Verse Poems follows: 

“Poetry might be defined as the clear expression of mixed feelings,” says W.H Auden, one of the most famous poets of the 20th century, known for his “chameleon-like ability” to write poetry in any verse-form. He has written four hundred poems in his lifetime, seven of them being book-length poetry. Auden’s poetry is one of the most influential in the 20th century, most of his poetry being concerned with moral issues with a psychological context. Yet, poetry does not specifically need to address politics, or moral issues. It can simply be one’s love for a specific subject, or one’s feelings toward something transpiring in one’s life. Poetry is the expression of your feelings, something that lets you, the poet, express yourself in any way you optate; specifically, free-verse poetry. Free-verse poetry, allows the writer to indite poetry in any structure they want. Although many times we see people struggling to express their feelings, it doesn’t mean we should just give up on poetry. 

I’ve had many personal experiences while writing poetry, when I have been on the receiving end of writer’s block. Two years ago, we had an upcoming poetry recital for school and although I really wanted to write my own poem, yet for many days I couldn’t think of anything right; it was really frustrating. But I learned a lesson from times like these:  you cannot force yourself to write! Instead, you have to let ideas flow freely and naturally. 

One of the first and most consequential steps in writing poetry is finding something that you are profoundly passionate about. This can range from your cat, to the shoes you bought the other day. It can also be a policy, or feelings that you feel vigorous about; feelings such as anxiety, sadness, or a current political event. When a writer is passionate about a subject, or has strong feelings towards an experience, it motivates them, keeping them more focused and committed, as well as sparking creativity. As a poetry writer myself, once I find a subject I am passionate about, I draw down images or thoughts that come to my head. This usually helps develop the poem further, or inspires me to write more. 

The last step of writing a free-verse poem is bringing all your ideas together. Allowing them to flow, as they emerge out of your head, or simply bringing together all the previous ideas you had about the topic, is completely fine. Free-verse poetry does not have any structure; ergo, it does not matter how many words are in a stanza or how many stanzas are written. It could be 6 words, or 700 words, it does not matter how much one writes, but rather, how one expresses themself. Like Dylan Thomas, the Welsh poet, once said “Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toenails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own.” A poem goes far beyond simple writing of words, it is a way to express everything you are feeling. A poem is a great way to finally get everything off of your chest; be it the burden of the world you are writing about, or the sandwich you ate yesterday, poetry is beautiful.

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