Whenever poets or critics discuss free verse they often imply (whether or not they actually mean to) some deep relaxation of form by the poet or suggest that there is little apparent form to be had. That is to say, they might seek form that is present in some subdued or organic way. Free verse (or vers libre) is certainly a move away from traditional or conventional forms such as the sonnet or ballad. It suits many modern poets who prefer to explore rhythms and scansions that are more personal, more flexible. These poets, one supposes, wish to discover poem by poem, line by line forms that are appropriate to their voice and to the particular content of each statement. I sometimes refer to free verse as using ragged lines. Its my tongue incheek way of making a more serious point about the dangers of free verse. For a start, free verse can get lazy. Anything goes. Form can be overlooked or given only cursory attention. Now, Im not saying that poems cant splurge. Some of the greatest poets have, in some sense or other, splurged. What Im saying is that, actually, composing in free verse needs a sharp ear and an experienced eye. You dont have the scaffolding of an established form to climb up, so you have to have, instead, an incredible sense of linguistic balance and an acute sensitivity to the more subtle aspects of form, rhythm and the arrangement and length of lines.
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