To write good free verse, you have to be able to properly utilize literary devices. As a refresher, we will try to go over a few commonly used in free verse poetry.
Rhythm and Rhyme:
The definition of free verse is any poetry without set lines and rhyming patterns. One literary device commonly used in free verse, however, is that of rhythm and rhyme. Rhythm and rhyme set the pace for a poem’s development and enhance its musicality.
Science and MathematicsTake all of your silky words
And tie them to a rock
Throw them in the ocean and
Watch all of them drop
Will they sink to the bottom?
Or will they float up top?
How deep does your meaning go,
or is it just a flop?
Your delectable honey-spice
Sure did cook up nice,
but upon the swallowing
I learned I ought to, think twice.
Don't take my silence for, grant-ed.
With eyes to the skies
And head Under water
You're a flickering light
and under you falter
You can't take the heat
Under salt water...
you bet your teeth
you better believe
I added it up.
The rhythm utilized in this poem contributes to the personal feel and ultimate impact overall. Its unique rhyme scheme sets it apart from other works and creates a resonance, even after the reader is finished.
Enjambment is the continuation of a sentence or phrase over a line break with no pause. It is often used for dramatic auditory effect; to contribute to the poems flow.
Let the Sparrows InI.
Blackbirds rest on the power lines,
their silhouettes form the notation
to a dawn song set on the sheet music
of telephone poles contrasted by the sun.
Curled leaves are land mines littered
on the lawn where imprints of twigs
and a nurturing robin's tracks collect.
Branchlets and leaflets stem from
porch step railings and mailboxes;
the numbers read odd on the east,
even on the west side of the asphalt:
The engraved letters on
the siding reads, "Davis."
This house is home to family
so let the sparrows in.
with its branching hallways
furniture rooted to the floor
family, friends, the occasional
out from home.
Let the sparrows in; let
Let the door's
loosen—let the door stand ajar
be let open
the night owls and
let the doves
in pairs in the iridescent
Let the sparrows in.
Framed on either side
This is a wonderful example of how the usage of enjambment contributes to the tonal aspect of a poem. This author’s excellent method creates a steady sense of progression and emphasizes his point.
This is yet another literary device commonly used to create a special readable quality in poetry. It is any two words or more with similar sounds at the beginning. “Slithering snake” “feathered friend.” It is very easy to include and can have a magical effect when used deliberately in phrasing.
Personification is the act of taking an inanimate or otherwise nonhuman object and assigning it human qualities. It’s seen frequently in literature, like “opportunity came knocking at our door” or “the wind sang throughout the night.” In some cases, it can be used as an extended metaphor to create a deeper story behind characters that aren’t tangible people.
VeilsIt began when we heard the screams coming from upstairs
gradually sounding more like grating chirps.
It bewildered us at first to witness mother shifting her shape
into that of a goldfinch. Yet, when we bought a gilded cage
for her I found myself missing her human form and decided
I needed a drink.
That night I ended up on a date with the moon.
She'd been sitting on the bar's rooftop sipping
a Gin Sling by herself, her star-colored hair mesmerizing
every eye in the place —I offered to join
and she said yes.
After a few more drinks I walked her to dawn,
and although the glow on the iron-nickel dress she wore
was visibly waning her celestial beauty remained
irresistible. When I moved in for the goodbye embrace
she warned me about the lunar curse turning men into
beasts, insisting she wasn't worth it.
Her lips left an argon-wasteland taste in my mouth
—the flavor of cosmic purity —while the orbital resonances from her
pressing body continued to pulsate in my chest like a
This poem turns the moon into a lover, and by giving “her” a definite identity and history, the author crafts a multi-layered love poem with an unorthodox deliverance.
Both similes and metaphors compare two objects. Similes do it through words like ‘like’ and ‘as’ - “dry as a bone,” “beaming like the sun.” Metaphors do the same, but do so instead by simply saying one thing is another. “All the world’s a stage.” “Conscience is a man’s compass.” Similes and metaphors are a great way to describe things in creative ways without simply listing them out.
Imagery is the vivid use of figurative language to make a poem expressive in any of the five senses. It is very commonly used in free verse to make it more descriptive and add to the overall tone.
Payne's GreyPayne Grey
storm clouds roll in on ashy winds
that slide through dull iron gates,
opening with a gaping creak like the sigh of moth wings.
The rasping whisper of ragged newspaper clippings
writhing among the smoke dissipates
as the tempest thunders over the estate,
dousing the blaze of heat in pockmarked raindrops
that never reached the decadent parlor
where the Lady suffocated.
This poem manages to describe senses in a refreshingly captivating way. The beautiful descriptions really allow you to experience the color and story behind it. The imagery brings “Payne’s Grey” to life.
Though not seen frequently in poetry, irony is still a relevant and helpful device. Irony is used to illustrate a discrepancy, resulting in an action or situation where the outcome is the reverse of what is expected. Different forms of irony used are: verbal irony, or sarcasm; situational, and dramatic irony, which both carry different meanings in poetry than they do prose. An example of situational irony is taking a naturally beautiful image and comparing it to something dark, or unexpected. Examples of dramatic irony are commonly found in first person narration when the speaker unwittingly says something that means more than they realize. Poetic irony is a good way to add layers into your work.
Simply enough, dialogue is the literary device where one or more persons exchange words. Dialogue is excellent for adding sentimentality or dynamics to a piece.
little white liestissue paper skin and barbed wire spines
"i haven't been sleeping well."
butterfly wing smiles and porcelain bones
"the medicine will help."
sparrow hearts and rose petal hair
undersea eyes and sailboat stomachs
"these things pass in time."
In this poem, dialogue perfectly intertwines with descriptions to form a plot. The spoken words create an identity for the imagery to reveal; and they add a sense of realism that really makes the poem hit home.
You must write a free verse piece including 3 or more of any of the aforementioned literary devices. Make sure to include what you used in your author’s comments!
(And, some more official resources for free verse and literary devices: www.poeticterminology.net/24-f… literary-devices.com/ www.poetryarchive.org/poetryar…)