Why I Do Not Write ‘Formal’ Or ‘Free’ Verse
I can say this because I only rarely adhere to classic formal verse structures, but nothing I write do I consider ‘free verse’ either.
I certainly have nothing against formal prosodic structures. But the obsession with them that makes people assume they are a requirement of all poetry is misguided.
In fact, most people only assume a poem is following such a structure when it has obvious characteristics such a full end-rhyme or a strong, regular rhythm or neat line breaks. They really have no understanding of prosody. (Shakespeare is said to write iambic pentameter, but scanning his poetry will disabuse one of that idea.)
Many of the traditional, formal structures were borrowed from Latin or Italian, languages very different from English. In Italian, unlike English, rhyme is easy and won’t sound forced. Structures borrowed from French are also inappropriate because it isn’t an accentual-syllabic language like English.
‘Free verse’ is a confusing and only loosely defined term. If it means free of traditional, formal structure, then most of my poetry certainly is ‘free verse’, as is most of the great poetry of the last one-hundred years. If it means having no structure, then I wouldn’t consider it as really poetry, because that would mean it shows no attention to that essential, structural component poetry: the sound of it.
Most contemporary poetry is like jazz, in that it breaks from the traditional rules of ‘classical’ composition, but is amazingly and often subtly structured according to more flexible criteria.