1. Published on Amazon? If you have a book, e-book, or audiobook available on Amazon.com, we'll promote it on WritingForums.org for free. Simply add your book to our Member Publications section. Add your book here or read the full announcement.
    Dismiss Notice
  2. Dismiss Notice
Tags:
  1. Laurus

    Laurus Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2017
    Messages:
    161
    Likes Received:
    110

    Critiquing free verse poetry

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Laurus, Jun 30, 2017.

    I wrote a free verse poem recently that I was thinking I might post in the workshop, but it occurred to me that I'm not sure how one would actually critique a free verse. Will the quality of the poem simply come down to tastes? I ask because I don't want to create a situation where people just shrug because they can't offer feedback, and because if there is a method to critiquing free verse, I'd like to learn it and pay it forward to help develop my own skills.
     
  2. Arktaurous34

    Arktaurous34 Senior Member Supporter

    Joined:
    May 21, 2017
    Messages:
    192
    Likes Received:
    112
    Location:
    Oregon
    I am not sure but when it comes to poetry Riddley Walker, MulberryWriter, and OJB, offer diverse and constructive feedback. OurJud, shaan, matwoolf, whitey6203, and Francis de Aguilar seem to have great grasps on poetry as well though I haven't read as many of their critiques yet. I really like having all of them on the forum and defer to their wisdom and skill on the subject of free verse.

    I personally loath free verse because it always stirs a feeling of indignation in me that has nothing to do with the actual poem but everything to do with my conditioning to believe that a poem must must must rhyme. I blame early brainwashing from English teachers :p That said, I long to one day be so captivated by a free verse poem that I can break the shackles of rhyme and meter and soar with the writer to new and interesting places. Alas, it has not happened and I fear it never will.
     
    Youssef Salameh and Laurus like this.
  3. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    7,949
    Likes Received:
    7,628
    I think there's always an element of taste in critique, and especially in the critique of poetry, but I think the core of the response should be the same for free verse as for anything else. Did the poem create vivid images/emotions/responses, did it hold the reader's interest, did the words flow in a manner that complimented the message...
     
  4. Laurus

    Laurus Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2017
    Messages:
    161
    Likes Received:
    110
    Thanks, both. I'm probably just over thinking things, so I'll work on it more, post it, and hope those poetry folks stop by.
     
    Arktaurous34 likes this.
  5. OJB

    OJB Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2016
    Messages:
    759
    Likes Received:
    612
    Location:
    Chicago, IL.
    Free Verse means a poem 'free' of Meter and End Rhyme. It is still subject to critique in regards to Rhythm (Rhythm and Meter, while related, do differ), Imagery, Figures of Speech, Sound, Musical devices, and a whole other boatload of poetics.

    -OJB
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2017
  6. Laurus

    Laurus Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2017
    Messages:
    161
    Likes Received:
    110
    Huh. Didn't know that! That makes sense though, thank you.
     
  7. Youssef Salameh

    Youssef Salameh Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2012
    Messages:
    203
    Likes Received:
    50
    I believe that unless a person is inspired, his/her written poem wouldn't reach the public as required. (Talent) plays a great role in enforcing the structure of the poem, thus giving it the poetic elements that it should contain. Furthermore, no one can deny the essential factor of rhyme in a poem, since poems were originally written to be sung, not just read. However, our world is world of change, not only in science but in literature also. Indeed, no one knows. A day may come where restrictions of poetic meter's rules may lessen, and new literary rules evolve; we just do our best.
     
  8. JLT

    JLT Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2016
    Messages:
    455
    Likes Received:
    374
    Well, Laurus, you have to take whatever I say with a kilogram of salt, because my idea of what free verse is seems at odds with that of many of the esteemed colleagues that Arktaurous34 has mentioned above. I seem to have a far looser definition; for me, the story is the thing and the images support it, whereas for them, the images are the thing and there needn't be a story at all -- if there is one, it should be cast as prose and not poetry. I leave it to you to read the comments and use them to guide your own way through the thicket.

    For me, the ideal poem is one that engages the reader from the start and creates the desire to read further. It should not tax the reader's patience or imagination unduly. At the end, the reader should feel that while the message has been understood, there might be more to the message than is first apparent, and perhaps is encouraged to reflect on what that message might be, and to re-read the poem to sift out another possible prize. At best, the reader should feel that something has shifted slightly in their perception of the universe, or of life, or of themselves.

    I have not written the ideal poem, although sometimes I think I've come fairly close.

    I suggest that you look up Billy Collins's work. And Roger McGough, who uses rhyme quite a lot, also finds ways to write expressive poetry without it.
     
    TheNineMagi likes this.
  9. OJB

    OJB Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2016
    Messages:
    759
    Likes Received:
    612
    Location:
    Chicago, IL.
    Where do you come up with this non-sense?

    Narrative poems, Epics, and Verse novels all tell stories.

    Unlike prose though, poetry uses the above devices to express these stories.

    Story poems
    1. The Raven by Edger Allen Poe.
    2. Blueberries by Robert Frost.
    3. How I learn to Sweep by Julia Alvarez.

    -
     
  10. JLT

    JLT Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2016
    Messages:
    455
    Likes Received:
    374
    I believe you misunderstood me, for which I apologize. I meant to say that, for many people, story-telling needn't be an essential part of poetry. A poem can simply be an impression, like William Carlos Williams's "Red Wheelbarrow":

    https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/red-wheelbarrow

    That sort of poetry is analogous to the abstract art movement of the 20th century, which was trying to overthrow stereotyped concepts of representational ('story-telling") art in favor of one which conveys only sensations of color and motion and dimension. And it met with a barrage of criticism for trying to do so, although you can sell a Jackson Pollock our Paul Klee for a fair bit of change these days, so you could say that the abstractionist's viewpoint has been validated.

    There seems to be a fair number of this sort of abstract poem, even on this site (badgerjelly's comes to mind). But I agree that for most poems, story-telling is a vital component. For what it's worth, most of my own poetry tells a story.
     
  11. OJB

    OJB Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2016
    Messages:
    759
    Likes Received:
    612
    Location:
    Chicago, IL.
    In my younger years, I could never understand the appeal of this poem. However, in my older age, I understand it's importance. So this is a free-verse poem and an easy one to study. WCW is looking at an object and describing it with crisp detail. At the time, not a lot of poets had done that. If anything can be learned from this, it is how to create an image.

    Also, look at the two colors he chooses, Red and White. This is a very vivid color combination. Next, look at the syllable count, there is a pattern.

    4
    2

    3
    2

    3
    2

    4
    2

    Last the meaning, we are told that the Wheelbarrow is important, but never explained why. For me, I always thought of a scene where a farmer needs to get the feed for the chickens but finds his wheelbarrow is full of water.

    For such a small poem we have: A crisp image, a vivid color combination, a Rhythm, and an alluded meaning (subtext.) These devices can be used in a story poem as well.

    -

    Utter non-sense. If anyone told me this, I'd assume they not reading much-published poetry. I have over 30 volumes of poetry written in the last 50 years and they are loaded with stories. Some are very brief and simple, but they have a story never the less.

    How I learn to Sweep by Julia Alvarez, is one of best poems I've read in my life and tells the story about a young girl learning how to sweep/clean house for the first time. Not a complex story, but the way it progresses leaves the reader with a sense of horror and despair.

    Poetry is an art form with a large tool box of literary devices for us to use. How we choose to use these devices, story, image poems, Sonic poems (poems that focus purely on sound) Snapshots, riddles, etc. Is up to the writer.

    Look up poems by Ted Kooser. They use simple diction, and are not overly complex. He writes both free verse and traditional poems. He's proubly the best modern day poet for people new to poetry to read.

    -
     
  12. JLT

    JLT Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2016
    Messages:
    455
    Likes Received:
    374
    After I stated that "story-telling needn't be an essential part of poetry," you reeplied.

    Again, I fear that you have misinterpreted me. I would agree that 99% of poetry is story-telling, because story-telling is at the roots of all literature. The operative word here is "needn't."

    Up to the 20th century, 99% of all art was representational. It told a story via an image (or, more precisely, in the way it represented the image). Abstract impressionism changed all that, and was bitterly disparaged by representational artists. (They still do. My sister-in-law still thinks that representation art -- preferably indistinguishable from photographs -- is still the way to go, and abstract art is all garbage.)

    For a humorous and insightful comment on modern art, consider Kurt Vonnegut's character of Rabo Karabekian, who appears in Breakfast of Champions and Bluebeard. He defends his abstract art, and that of his colleagues, while realizing that his views aren't, and possibly never will be, mainstream. Vonnegut argues that mainstream representational art has its place, but can't address certain aspects of the human condition.

    So an aspiring poet is attempting to write a poem without a story shouldn't be told that "Well, that's just never done." It may be better to provide the image and let the reader invent the story, as you have just done with "Red Wheelbarrow." Some people look at Paul Klee's art and see an impression of motion, others see street grids, and still others see nothing in particular. All these views are valid.
     
    Laurus likes this.

Share This Page