Mammoth Memory

Free verse – no rules

Free verse is poetry with no rules – it’s up to you!

The best we can say is that free verse:

1.  Is NOT an essay written and then broken into lines

2.  Does NOT contain patterns of rhyme or metre

3.  DOES tend to follow natural speech

4.  DOES provide vivid imagery in short sentences

Free verse is poetry with no rules 

On the last day of school, the kids were finally FREE – NO MORE RULES!

Example 1

Everyone burned coal in our neighbourhood,

soft coal they called it from the mountains

of western Pennsylvania where my father

grew up and fled as soon as he could, where

my Welsh cousins dug it down in the dark.


The furnace it fed stood in the dank

basement, its many arms upraised

like Godzilla or some other monster.

It was my job to pull out clinkers

and carry them to the alley bin.

Marge Piercy, from The Air Smelled Dirty


Example 2

This poem, about how little we know our own parents, seems well-suited to a form without rhyme and rhythm:


Wind and the sound of wind—

across the bay a chainsaw revs

and stalls. I've come here to write,


but instead I've been thinking

about my father, who, in his last year,

after his surgery, told my mother


he wasn't sorry—that he'd cried

when the other woman left him,

that his time with her


had made him happier than anything

he'd ever done. And my mother,

who'd cooked and cleaned for him


all those years, cared for him

after his heart attack, could not

understand why he liked the other


woman more than her,

but he did. And she told me

that after he died she never went


to visit his grave—not once.

You think you know them,

these creatures robed


in your parents' skins. Well,

you don't. Any more than you know

what the pines want from the wind,


if the lake's content with this pale

smear of sunset, if the loon* calls

for its mate, or for another.

John Loomis, At the Lake House 


A loon is an aquatic bird found in many parts of North America.

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