WSC Free Verse Poetry Writing Workshop

WSC Free Verse Poetry Writing Workshop

Free Verse is the most publishable form of poetry published in today’s literary world.  The beauty of Free Verse lies in the combination of influences functioning in your poetry alongside your authentic voice.

Different styles and forms best suit each of us as poets–the forms you feel most comfortable using in your own poetry. The page is your stage to speak your voice.

As creative writers, we usually write what we like to read.  So, for instance, if you have a penchant for philosophy, most likely, you will write something in the tradition of Kahlil Gibran.  In doing so, however, you need to originate your voice by selecting contexts and images from your own realm of experiences and influences.  This in turn, will allow you to speak truly from your poetic voice.

This workshop will allow you to originate your voice with use of your previous influences (past units).  Be bold and brave in this workshop. But, also stay true to your authentic self as you attempt to create work subconsciously that will read naturally, and not contrived, to your readership.

Writing Process

With free verse poetry, you need to develop your own unique style of writing poetry.  This does not necessarily mean that you will pick and choose what you think will work best in your poetry.  The process of free verse should be organic in nature. By contextualizing the poetry it bonds the creative exploration of the main issue or abstraction using imagery and metaphors. Care needs to be applied not to overly dramatize with particular phrases such as “in the sunlight of infinite promise”. Instead, try to keep those lines specific with specific imagery, 

Extending your metaphors

With free verse we continue to used the literary devices including extending the metaphors. With this technique we compare two unlike things. We continue contrasting throughout a series of sentences in a paragraph or prose or lines in a poem.

For example, in Frost’s, The Road Not Taken, life experiences and psychological/cognitive journeys are referred to using the metaphor of roads. By extending this metaphor, he subtly explicates the message that a harder path offers greater rewards in life.

Thus, the extended metaphor is a tool that serves to project the comparison more intensely in the reader’s mind–more so than can be done with simple metaphors or similes.

You will once again select abstractions to tackle with imagery. With the extended metaphors, we trust our imagery to bring meaning without explicitly stating the abstract concept–the abstraction.

Personal poetic style or brand

However,  you will determine which style of poetry best befits the content of your work.  Your brand may be a hybrid of a number of influences, which is altogether fine and encouraged. 

Or, you may find, that your influences range outside the literary world.  You may be interested in writing futuristic poetry, for example, or poems that read more like song lyrics.

Two poems, two poets and their free verse style influences

1 ~ Speaking to You (From Rock Bottom)
~ Michael Ondaatje

2 ~ The Road Not Taken
~ Robert Frost

Both Ondaatje and Frost exemplify artistic freedom. Each poet writes free from externally imposed limitations as is the case with regular meter or rhythm, without rhyme schemes or set structural rules. They tend to incorporate normal pauses and natural rhythmical, conversational phrases of modern age poetry. They do so without artificial constraints common in traditional poetry such as odes, limericks and other melodic forms.

Like specific stream of consciousness poems, The Road Not Taken, brings a dominant image into the lines but without the dense, enjambment of the metaphors we see in Howl. Frost, like Ondaatje and Atwood use simple words and phrases yet the poetry maintains the inherent features of images, metaphors, antithesis, and symbolism. The deeper meaning is obscured at times, ironically by the easy-to-follow choice of words and structure. There is a sense of mystery which entices the reader into deeper personal contemplation as though we are having a conversation with the poet.

Speaking to You (From Rock Bottom) differs from Gibran’s philosophical style. The free verse is not patterned in the presentation of the abstraction followed by concrete imagery, line by line. This can add challenge to the writing because it is so open-ended that the poets needs to be highly creative, in different ways to communicate the abstractions and issues.


The free verse brings opinions and thoughts into poetic exploration in the artistic creative style unique to each poet. Both Ondaatje and Frost bring emotional, relationship and personal issues into the poetry as does confessional poetry. They do convey loss/pain/love as in the distinctively autobiographical exploration of “I” in confessional poetry yet more in a sharing of situation with others.

Free verse poetry of Ondaatje and Frost, open the path of self-reflection in narrative form with themes of commitments, individualism, challenges, decisions, hopes and dreams. Further, they can and do, integrate different styles—philosophical, SOC, confessional, and lyric into their poems with greater flexibility in uniquely, creative ways.

~ namasté, Leah J. 🕊

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