Rhymed versus Free Verse
Poetry: Rules and Artistic Freedom
Poetry is beautiful as it is complicated. The writer should consider factors such as meter, rhyme, sound symbolism, and even phonesthetics. And when it comes to a poem’s pattern construction, there is a recurring debate between rhymed poems and free verse.
There are poets who strictly adhere to rhyme schemes and go by the textbook definition of what poetry is and should be. The American poet who wrote the poem “The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost, is one of the literary icons who is strictly against free verse. He once stated that “writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.”
Here is an example of a structured piece by Robert Frost. This was published in 1916 on his poem collection entitled Mountain Interval.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
A lot of traditional writers contend that free verse should be considered as prose, arguing that one should have enough skill, technique, and stamina to engage in the complicated art of poetry.
Structured poems generally have a better flow than free verse. The consistent rhyming pattern puts the reader at ease, making the piece easier to follow. It is also beneficial to the poet, since writing in rhythmic patterns is generally more challenging. It poses a greater task, which could lead to greater artistic growth.
Other writers insist that free verse is as valid as those that rhyme, claiming that having no fixed rhythm or consistent metrical pattern is a pattern in itself. An example of free verse poetry is the haiku, a traditional Japanese poem form that originates back from the seventeenth century.
Here is an example of a famous haiku by Matsuo Bashō, the lead proponent of the Japanese prose poem:
a worm digs silently
into the chestnut.
Free verse gives the writer greater artistic freedom. Some writers say that trying different poetic expressions is more liberating than sticking to structured lines. There are no restrictions, no requirements—one is able to freely express every emotion in the most specific manner they like.
One cannot say that one is better or worse than the other. At the end of the day, rhymed poetry and free verse may have different syntactic structure, but both are important in the growth of literary development and in the art of creative expression. My feeling is that a good poet should be comfortable in both structured and unstructured techniques. I provide both in my writings.
Bashō, Matsuo. n.d. “Autumn Moonlight.” Famous Poets and Poems.com. Accessed June 6, 2017. http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/matsuo_basho/poems/406.html.
Frost, Robert. 1916. “The Road Not Taken.” Bartleby.com. Accessed June 6, 2017. http://www.bartleby.com/119/1.html.