FREE VERSE IN REVERSE
Everywhere I look free verse poetry is in abundance. It has ruled the poetry societies,
maintained a foothold in academia, and sustained the publications for at least the last ten
decades. Some impute the creation of free verse to Walt Whitman, others attribute it to
Ezra Pound. To me it doesn’t matter who invented "vers libre" because I’m still waiting
to see if free verse poetry will ever become memorable.
Of course, there are those few free verse poets and poems, and for me they are almost
non-existent, who and which have become memorable. Even I can see that in the mind
of the right poet, which is true for any form, free verse can be brilliant, and at times may
even be considered sublime. Still, it seems to me, the ease with which free verse poetry
lends itself, in the absence of formal requirements, many more individuals have made their
way to the "vers libre" mainstream allowing anyone with good writing skills to become a
poet. However, sooner or later, enough is enough.
Imagine eating the same meal day after day. At first you may feel it will sustain you and
that’s what’s important. If it were a matter of survival, you’d have to deal with it or
perish; but it’s like eating your favorite dessert, and no matter how much of a favorite
dessert it is, eat too much of it, and you’re going to get sick. If you’re starting to feel
nauseous, welcome to the club. As for me, I've had enough of free verse poetry.
For me, the best way to solve this problem of overeating free verse poetry is to stop
reading free verse poetry. This is what I have been doing over the past twenty years.
I've cut out free verse poetry from my poetic diet by ninety-five percent, and I’ve been
healthier ever since. Why cut it out? Well, there are many more ways to write rhyme
than to write free verse. Having said all I’ve said so far, there are several more reasons
why I now prefer rhyme over free verse.
First, let me say that, nowadays, I feel writers of short stories, novellas, and novels are
writing so poetically, and poets are writing so prosaically, that it’s very difficult to
distinguish between the two, which is analogous to free verse poets complaining that
rhyming poetry sounds like greeting card verse or nursery rhyme poetry. That’s why all
of the free verse poetry I read or listen to lately, no matter how well written, leaves me
feeling cheated. It leaves me with the feeling that I've read the lines of the poems
somewhere in one of the many works of prose I've encountered. The words may be
original, never tested, but they still sound like I've heard them said before. That's why I
stay away from free verse poetry. If you read a lot, who knows, you may find the same
words in one publication or another.
Secondly, I like the fact that it is more difficult to write in rhyme than to write in free
verse. You may write in free verse first and then figure out the rhyme later, but you
never write in rhyme first to then go to free verse. If poetry is the highest form of
writing, then rhyme has to be the highest form of poetry. Is this logical? Free verse
poets may not think so, but let’s see.
A newly born baby communicates verbally by crying, to let you know if it’s sick, hungry,
wet, hot, cold, sleepy, or simply wants to be held. As the baby grows, it begins to master
individual words, then sentences, followed by paragraphs. Later on, it learns to write
down these words, and suddenly, these words become prose. The prose, in turn, when
poetic elements are used, becomes a prose poem. The prose poem then becomes a
regular poem by the use of shortened sentences, placed on the page so it is considered as
such. Logically, we now have free verse. However, why stop there? Let’s continue the
logical progression of writing poetry.
If we give the free verse poem a little structure, the most logical way to proceed would be
to give the poem meter. In this case, if we use, for example, iambic pentameter as the
formal structure of the poem, you have blank verse. Blank verse is still without rhyme,
but the free verse poem has risen to another, higher level. If anything, blank verse would
be a little harder to write for most people than free verse. Which brings us to rhyme.
If blank verse is higher than free verse, then rhyme is at the acme of all poetry.
You can’t write poetry more elevated than rhyme. This is another reason why I prefer
formal poetry. In wanting to create something strictly American, whether it was Walt
Whitman or Ezra Pound, or whomever, the creation of "vers libre," logically, took poetry
two steps backwards in the evolution of poetry. Poetry was de-evolved by the removal
of end rhyme. It's time to reverse this process. Enter the New Formalism.
Free verse poets will no doubt find the New Formalism a scary entity. After all, if
rhyming poetry again takes a hold here in America (rhyming poetry is well liked in many
other countries) a lot of free verse poets will be out of a job, the majority of them not
being able to rhyme two lines to save their lives.
The problem is we currently have no masters of rhyming poetry, except maybe rappers,
but they don't consider themselves poets. The mastery of rhyme comes after the practice
should be scared. Rappers make millions spewing out songs that have to rhyme one-
hundred percent of the time. If you don't rhyme, it's not rap. This is good because it
hints at future generations being already aware of rhyme, thanks to rappers (and not
academia), and eventually we will see them make the jump to rhyming poetry, and the
Rhymist Movement will take off.