Free verse, though a legitimate poetic style, is often exploited as a dump site for a load of pretty words by poets who neither understand nor respect the form.
The current fashion of writing a beautiful description and calling it a poem frosts my cookies. Sorry folks, I don’t care how pretty you dress up your noun, if there’s no verb, it ain’t a sentence. If your description doesn’t serve a purpose, you’ve raised my expectations for absolutely no good reason. You’ve wasted my time.
That’s disappointing, and disappointment makes me impatient. Impatience is not what I want to feel after immersing myself in a well-crafted description of yesterday’s sunrise. What’s the deeper meaning behind those artfully split light waves? It’s pretty? So take a picture! What I’m saying is: if your words have no point, no deeper philosophical meaning ... there is absolutely no point!
Not every page ribboned with unpunctuated words qualifies as free verse. Readers have expectations to be met in return for their investment of time in reading the poet’s work.
Free verse needs not follow a set pattern of rhyme or meter. The length of the poem is up to the writer. Like words set to music, it’s a lyrical style that evokes an emotional response. But the reader must perceive a message, a revelation, with the final words. Without that revelation, the poet’s work is incomplete and as satisfying as an unresolved chord.
So what does the thrifty poet do with all those lovely orphaned descriptions? Use them to caption vacation photos? Consider filing them for future use and inspiration. No telling when a profound thought will sprawl at one's feet begging to be dressed up for company.
N.K. Wagner is