How To Write Free Verse Poetry in 11+ Easy Steps ?

How to Spawn Poetry Like Deviled Eggs With Caviar in 10 Elephant Steps

    If you’re going to write poetry, please, for the sake of the human race and for the comfort of literate mammals, or those read to, don’t write about what you know, even if you’re a Rocket Scientist. Nota bene (N.B.), a Rocket Scientist must know higher and higher advanced mathematics, and although there is poetic charm in differential equations, the mythology of the moon will be more poetic for a few more years.

The Hummingbird Sings the π Song

Running in circles
in a dream about π
I traveled to
the hummingbird muse,

she among
banana peels and fruit flies,
3 meters from hiding places
in elm, mulberry, and willow
that she

might indeed feed
on flowers after
our magic hour.

Her fluttering wings
murmured a song for me
an answer to a question
I hadn’t yet asked.

“How big is π ” I asked.

She stood a moment:
convulsed two wings
oddly flat and still like
outstretched hands

Almost like a fisherman bragging:
THIS BIG.

Oh! I said.
But that’s four centimeters.
TOO BIG.

After a flutter
she stood again:
THIS BIG.

Um.
three centimeters.
TOO SMALL.

Well then I’ll
flutter a song
I call:
Too Big Too Small:
it starts loud and fades away, and
you must tell me when to stop
when I’ve shown you what you want.

How will I know?

It’s your dream
so you’ll know.
Hmmmm.

Hurruph gee
I murmur
many times
though the song
is beautiful

Hmmmmm

It’s fading, and then…
Hmm, I say
“STOP!”

THIS BIG!

The wings were stretched
a smidgen over three centimeters.
But how much?

I don’t know, she said.
Look and listen to the song.
When the music is in your heart
you’ll hear it in the silence.

    Writing poetry is impossible if you want to be stylish with ambiguity or vagueness. True poetry does not flow out from pen or sword or computer. It is a thing that escapes on the backs of creatures who run wild or sleep on a couch, but is it encapsulated like a virus.
    No, there is a poetic skin on its matrix of thought that is entangled in emotion, and sometimes the creature is injured and bleeds. It growls and purrs but often bleats from the woolly heart of chaos, bleats on the cold beachhead at dawn, setting patterns in the crystalline sands of time. Mello, it retreats to the meadow, becomes a lamb. Is there a shepherd or a wolf about, or is it a wolf?
    Behold the blurted poem — record it. But if you must write in blood, write in ketchup, because it tastes better and bleeding out tends to stop a poem. Remember, in greasing the way, French fries are deep fried, shallots are shallow. We mostly have onions.
    Yes, poetry is impossible. Poetry exudes from the pores like sweat and oil. It stains the fabric of exhibition. So then some items to consider:

1. Don’t read too much recommended poetry. Poetic poisoning can seize you eruditely, taking you, clouded in pristine smoke, to a land of oxymoronic sweet stench, an un-pop literature den of denizens pontificating with lit cigar wands waving towards an unholy upper atmosphere, a heavenly hell with cirrus puffs, those feathery clouds with dandruff flakes.

2. Write from the middle. When you start to write a poem, you’re in the middle of something. You’re going to have to write an introduction so somebody will know why rambling through a forest of ideas doesn’t make birds fall out of the trees from boredom or from being frightened by a crazy person invading their territory. So, when you start a poem from a notion, it’s likely that it’s going to wind up being a pitch in the middle of a game — you’re going to need a new beginning and a new end. By the way, as I started to imply, nature poems usually don’t work out. When I’m tempted to try that stale genre I get my ideas from the horse’s mouth or in this case, from a little bird. [Idiom alert: “from the horse’s mouth,” and “a little bird told me”].

Avian Translation

I’ve always wanted to speak
to the smaller birds, so
I’ve done a lot of weird whistling

Sometimes a little birdie cocks her head
and tries to see if I’m a threat or a bird benevolent,
but I’m neither a mate nor predator, just
a conversationalist

So I whistle something which means
“give tomatoes to Owls, like Caesar.”

And she says, “Huh, what? And
for a Human you don’t look so bad
even though you have no feathers.
Why is it that you can’t fly?
It’s so easy.”

And I said, “Why is it that
you can’t speak and write novels.”

“Well, then,” it said, “have you written one lately?”

And I said, “Um, no…”

And it said in a way that I think it meant kindly that
I was a birdbrain.

3.     So you have a great idea or theme and you’ve written a line. Now you think the next (or alternate line) must rhyme. Sometimes none of the rhyming words make sense with your theme, and all the synonyms you might try to substitute for the first line don’t really express what you want to say. Despair?
    Oh, to rhyme is divine, sometimes, if you can keep your original thought, or re-do the whole poem to match the new theme that’s been implied by your quirky synonym choice. I mean, you have a poem about a “pest” and it could be about a guest or an insect or both, but you definitely didn’t intend it to take place in Budapest, or on top of Mount Everest, and a cockroach doesn’t have a “breast.” So you have to decide whether to stay true to your original idea or go with Kafka, or go with God, or go to an inquest for a dead metaphor, or don’t rhyme.

4. Yes, you do have to edit. Put it aside and try to forget about it. Come back using your best method acting skills and pretend you’re another person. This other person should be able to read and understand the poem. If the meaning is obscure, you have a problem. Perhaps you can add an explanatory phrase, or add a dramatic interlude. If you fade back into yourself, you might find yourself saying, “What was I thinking?” Maybe you can answer yourself or look for your scrap notes.

5. Make scrap notes.

6. Develop the proper attitude. I sometimes do OK, but

    I Hate Poetry

I claw through words
growling to rip the meat,
add a soupçon to
a consommé, but
don’t make me
eat my soup in the woods

Like a bear
I hate poetry, because
it’s senseless to be dense
letting forest rangers throw
huh words in a campfire.

What would I want with dense description:
it makes my soup too thick, and
if I burn my tongue,
emotions will be hot
without corn indigestible.

Don’t make me
eat in the woods. My
kingdom for a kitchen table.

Can I just have my
Parmesan cheese, nutty and fine,
not looking for
patterns
in the wallpaper, equations for space travel,
’cause I can stare beyond the stars
some other time
after I’ve had
my soup with a spoon that need not be silver like the moon,
a simple spoon, only

large enough not to stew me,
not vaporize ineffables like vegetables

7. You may find it odd that you’re struggling to write a poem when everyone else is doing it easily. After all, a herd of sheep can arrange themselves in the form of a poem, and any boy can guard them from the wolves of criticism. You have probably been taught the Aesop fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” Actually, something over the years has been lost in translation. It originally was called, “The Boy Who Cried Run-on Sentence.” Well, not every very long sentence, embellished with care, is improper, and such a complex sentence, running naked through the streets like Archimedes, can be used to trigger thoughts for a poem. A main clause just needs a subject and a verb. Dependent clauses run wild. Put them together. It’s not always true that sentences are runaways. These sentences, gracefully elaborated, embellished with the sounds of glorious triumph, with cacophonous instruments of drunken loquacious musicians strung out on their heart strings, like birds and cats who are mine, playing around with joyful noise, making every trill a wave to glory, oceanic, are not runaways, being ensconced in dreams, and pray tell, if I may continue, the words of the angels are infinite and concise like love that sings forever charming and as elaborate as is a sentence to joy, many times re-phrased, re-claused like a Santa Clause whose mythology endures way beyond his run away sleigh, bells of grace reverberating with every sentence pronounced by judges and supplicants gracefully joined in symphony, in sympathy, in empathy, and joined on every path to any pathy even daffy, because the complex can be simply wonderful like you all who indulge the marathon run into oblivion with a billion words and who pause to hear my running word.

Sentences

Sentences, gracefully elaborated, embellished
with the sounds of glorious triumph, with
cacophonous instruments of
drunken loquacious musicians
strung out on their heart strings,

like birds and cats who are mine,
playing around with joyful noise,
gracefully making every trill
a wave to glory, oceanic, are not runaways,
being ensconced in dreams, and
pray tell, if I may continue,

the words of the angels are infinite and
concise like love that sings forever charming
as elaborate as is a sentence to joy,
many times re-phrased, re-claused like a
Santa Clause whose mythology endures
way beyond his run away sleigh,
bells of grace reverberating with every sentence
pronounced by judges and supplicants
gracefully joined in symphony, in sympathy, in empathy,
joined on every path to any pathy even daffy, because
the complex can be simply wonderful like
you all who indulge the marathon run
into oblivion with a billion words and
who pause to hear my running word.

May I write a poem that is like a story or fable?

8.    NO!

    It’s like the children’s game, “Mother, May I,” and you need to get permission from Big Brother or Sister, a Union Leader, the Main Stream Media or Academia, or permission from a proper Party Leader or Intelligence Service like in George Orwell’s “1984” in order to express an unapproved opinion, and even with permission, you’ll probably be erased.

    However, just because everyone is playing a children’s game, that doesn’t mean you have to. Besides, in colloquial English, most people don’t distinguish between “may” and “can.” Anyway, if you are physically able, go ahead and write a “narrative poem.” However, you don’t have to model it after the “Iliad and the Odyssey,” unless you’re writing in Greek. It’s not traditional but you can do it in free verse until it’s squashed or shadow banned.

    Consequently, a fable milieu can be attempted while trying to be a witness to truth.  Sarcasm and satire are handy tools to use while you’re searching for an alternate witness protection program where you can get a new identity. You would need plausible deniability to write something like this:

The Depravity of a Union Teacher

Depravity
would be seen
as unforeseen
consequences:
a union of travesty
gravity
and dirt

The botanist had had a child in school.
Had sad time off; there’d be time too
for the funeral soon. There would be

blood in the kitchen, a kind of
spilled wine in the garden for
teachers of the vineyard who demanded
more whine privilege than little
giggling girls like her Randi
used to be, but the Union

had demanded masked smiles until doom,
more rules for tiny children in a classroom.

The botanist had
more time off from work for the funeral.

Walking in a hellish haze
the botanist felt nauseous
along the way from the smell
of her daughter’s favorite flowers

far afield she wandered
drifting in a fog, in a
random eternal pattern
to reach the ceremony
of the grave; had a thought
(Randi’s vision
made her cry)

She was startled by a reporter. Blurted:
“yes, I am certain that
the teacher is an idiot.

“You want to know? You know…
My little Randi darling flower spirit
was precocious ‘once upon a time’
before a teacher tore her petals off”

This Mom was a little nauseous
smelling her daughter’s favorite flowers
as she walked in a daze remembering

far afield she wandered in a trance
yet jolted by the voice persisting;
replied:

“Yes, I’m sure
it was suicide.
You want to know? You know…
my child vomited in her mask,
and the teacher wouldn’t… (you know)
she came home; said school was fine —
the usual kid denial, and the
counselor said don’t worry

“Yes, you know the story —
report it.”

Far afield she wandered in a trance
yet jolted by the voice persisting; replied
“the nurse said it was nothing”

she smelled the flowers

The reporter fell backwards
when she vomited on him, and
she enabled his fall over
the unmasked cliff
with prejudice.

Startled, she turned around to
walk home, so as to smell
the corpse flower, and to
join her daughter with a plunge of
a kitchen knife into her own heart.

Actually, as poetry, if you examine it, you’ll find some partial internal rhymes such as here:

Walking in a hellish haze
the botanist felt nauseous
along the way from the smell
of her daughter’s favorite flowers

and the “el” sound in “felt” and “smell.” Also, if you read it out loud, you’ll hear some rhythm patterns.

More On Sentences

9.    Oh NO, not that!  Writing clear but wild sentences can set you free from too much abstraction and vagueness like this sentence has had.

    Unfortunately, most native speakers of English were first taught grammar when they were 12, 13, or 14-years-old. For many, those were very bad years and they were much too young to understand grammar. The saving grace, of course, was that since they were already fluent in the language, they had an instinctual grasp of grammar, usually knowing what “sounded right” or “sounded wrong.”  However, knowing how to deliberately construct a wild and proper sentence can be helpful in forming elements of a poem.  Therefore, you should obtain a college-level English style book to refer to (by the way, English is not Latin so you can end a sentence with “to”, contrary to conventional ‘wisdom’).

    While ruminating about the closing of the Grammarland Park where dangling participles grow on trees like money does, pay special attention to subordinate clauses.* One doesn’t always have to abandon sentence structure for the sake of poetic licentiousness, oblivious to mindless rhymes, clueless and obscure, splayed in a littered meadow. No. As they say, “A well placed thought is often dreamed away while driving a car.” Think a moment then.

    Keep in mind, the poetic vehicle doesn’t always have to veer off a mountain road, off a cliff, doesn’t always need to crash into a ravine to gorge on swallowed tears. Indeed no.

   Are you not the Poet-in-chief, commander of the alter-ego subordinates? But do pay special attention to the actors and their lines. Let them have their coffee breaks and line breaks, if necessary.

    After you have chosen your main idea, connectives signal place, time, cause, or qualify the independent clause.  The independent clause can stand alone as a complete sentence — the subordinate clauses (dependent clauses) can not. However, sometimes it’s such a common and subtle subordination that it’s barely noticed. Sometimes the word “that” can be omitted and is understood: He thought the fun would last forever [that omitted]. In poetry, the word “that” can be clumsy and upset an iambic rhythm. But there are more elaborate subordinations to chew on while spitting out “that”.

    Setting the standards, the falling sun castigates the moods, those theses like statues the Muses make, when the day is long, and when the sun’s insidious shadows of fatigue and grief grow in length. But perhaps there is more to life than subordinating conjunctions and adverbs: when, as if, so that, until, since, although, because. Because of this, driving while drunk on chaotic subordination can be dangerous without strategic repeats. More on this later (dropping fragments with love).

    Driving home a point, however, the poetic vehicle may on a dreary day be stuck in a rut.  The car can be broken down near a New Orleans wake, or broken down in Memphis, or in some unknown slum. Worse than the car, even a person can be “broken down” as an extension of the car.

Broken down in Sugar Ditch
waiting for a scholarship
I was wheeling like
lightning struck me down…

Notice the word “waiting”. Participles can be very useful subordinators. They are one of my favorites, but it would be useful to research all of these: (1) Participles, (2) adjectives-with-phrase, (3) appositives, (4) relatives understood, and (5) absolutes. Write a poem, heavy with metaphors, light with joy [2], if it’s to be under the spell of “heavy” and “light,” two adjectives, or do something else:

…I seem to fish by
my taciturn stream
barren of fin splashes
every stone unturned by crab or fish
or by intellect avoiding worms,
appearing to wait for solutions
floating like dead fish,
[1]
but my rod is wound up…

    But there’s a thing about buying a poetic license unlike buying a fishing license.  Words can be left out for the sake of rhythm and rhyme if the meaning is still truly an edible fish — at least a rod and line with hook if not bait. In an “appositive”, the words “who is” or “which is” are omitted and understood. “John who is a scoundrel” becomes “John the scoundrel.”  “A heart which is frozen in time cannot love now” becomes “A heart, frozen in time, cannot love now.”

Write a Coherent Complex Sentence Before Breaking Out Into Poetry

10.    Actually, there are never 10 easy steps to anything. There are always a thousand. But as they say, “The journey of a thousand faux pas begins with the first trip.”

    Well, after all that, one can write in the style of simple sentences especially if one is not writing as one’s complex self. I find it interesting that Jannat grew up in a liberal Western world when Kabul Afghanistan was free, expected to get her College degree, and then lost everything when Kabul fell. She is one who wrote a poem (I was thinking of “Romeo & Juliet,” written here in the voice of Juliet, now “Jannat” […oh, and note the appositives: Rafiq, my friend, my love… Rafiq, my sun, my dove…]):

Rafiq and Jannat1

Rafiq, my friend, my love,
plays are forbidden but
you will write this modest girl
the words for a secret blush on cheeks.

Music is forbidden
but you will dance with me
if shame evaporates like
sweet sweat in
mourning’s dew.

Refiq, my sun, my dove:
a morning will come
when love is due.

Yea verily I insist! Ask:
why dance amidst the mists?

Begone archaic ways, nuanced
rhetorical nits; yes wait for
mysterious replies. I insist

you inhere the day, for
a bird sings and it is you;
a bird is forbidden so it flies

I breathe in joy from the sky
and it is you, blue Rafiq

Hush, I am learning spelling,
oh Rafiq

invoke my name, Jannat, and
you will have my paradise shared

Why?
Because I am washing
watermelon seeds and
not eating them.

I am as fertile as a pomegranate
but my juice is forbidden though
it’s sweet and tart like you.

Write my name on a fig leaf, and
soon I will come and kiss it.

But yet rain inheres the clouds
and salt inheres the tears

Spell me. Play me.

Cast me in a play
like a spell.

Quick. Send your Aunt to inspect me.
I will hide my face, and I will
make myself ugly and obedient.
She will report that I am suitable.

I want to be a star for you.
I wonder if Bollywood is too far.
At 4 a.m. I study my physics book
and I know about drama…

Launch us a rocket to the stars
and find me the “Twilight Zone”
video

But yet rain inheres the clouds
and salt inheres the tears,
the bombs burst in fields

Let me hide us like
a benign subtlety in
the divine flower of my youth

But flower arranging is
a perfume of lies for a girl;
obligations for women,

But yet rain inheres the clouds
and salt inheres the tears, and
bombs burst in fields
so soldiers might plunder

I want to be a star for you.
I wonder if Bollywood is too far
or the North Star too dear.

Rafiq, cast a spell for me.
My father has lost his job.

He is too weak from belief
and I fear

the bombs in the field.
Storms approach our
high mud wall.

Father is insane, and
he will sell me.

Rafiq, are you real?

you inhere the day, for
a bird sings and it is you;
I breathe in a deadly mist,
I listen

* Sheridan Baker, The Complete Stylist (New York, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1966),  pp. 99 – 111.

1. :

“Faustti Poems and Jousts”
(US)

UK

Canada

France

Germany

Poland

India

Japan

Australia