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Thread: Why does free verse count as verse?

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    Why does free verse count as verse?

    I'm rather ignorant when it comes to poetry so this is likely a stupid question, but why is free verse considered verse? Isn't verse distinguished from prose by its adherence to a meter and/or rhyme scheme? It seems to me like you can just take any random bit of prose, arrange it into lines, and call it free verse.

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    I like to partition the domain of texts into four, not two, parts: (1) poetry, (2) prose, (3) poetry and prose, (4) neither poetry nor prose.

    Then one can partition each of these parts into two more: (1) meaningful, (2) not meaningful. One could also split them into (1) interesting, (2) not interesting.

    I agree with your definition of "poetry". It should be the category where sound dominates, that is, texts where meter, rhyme, alliteration and whatever else is used to keep the reader's attention.

    The problem with a lot of poetry, and this includes even metrical, non-free verse, poetry, is that it is "not meaningful" which makes it usually "not interesting".

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    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    I like to partition the domain of texts into four, not two, parts: (1) poetry, (2) prose, (3) poetry and prose, (4) neither poetry nor prose.

    Then one can partition each of these parts into two more: (1) meaningful, (2) not meaningful. One could also split them into (1) interesting, (2) not interesting.

    I agree with your definition of "poetry". It should be the category where sound dominates, that is, texts where meter, rhyme, alliteration and whatever else is used to keep the reader's attention.

    The problem with a lot of poetry, and this includes even metrical, non-free verse, poetry, is that it is "not meaningful" which makes it usually "not interesting".
    Neither poetry nor prose? I can't see what would fit under that label other than perhaps an incoherent bunch of characters. And the other two distinctions seem too subjective to me.

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    Free verse usually refers to poetry in contrast to both prose and traditional poetry in rhyme and meter. Modern poetry, in English beginning about 1912, differs from traditional poetry in many ways. A few poets like Hopkins, Dickinson, and Whitman, wrote modern free-verse poetry in the 1900s.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wolffg View Post
    Free verse usually refers to poetry in contrast to both prose and traditional poetry in rhyme and meter. Modern poetry, in English beginning about 1912, differs from traditional poetry in many ways. A few poets like Hopkins, Dickinson, and Whitman, wrote modern free-verse poetry in the 1900s.
    I assume you mean 1800s :P

    I've always considered the reason that free verse became so popular was due to its unconventional nature. Until the 19th century, pretty much every poet wrote in iambic pentameter. Whitman once released a version of Leaves of Grass where he used iambic pentameter, just to show that he could in fact use it, he just didn't want to. To be so unconventional naturally drew criticism, but over time those works have come to be some of the most appreciated works of poetry out there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DeeKaah View Post
    I assume you mean 1800s :P

    I've always considered the reason that free verse became so popular was due to its unconventional nature. Until the 19th century, pretty much every poet wrote in iambic pentameter. Whitman once released a version of Leaves of Grass where he used iambic pentameter, just to show that he could in fact use it, he just didn't want to. To be so unconventional naturally drew criticism, but over time those works have come to be some of the most appreciated works of poetry out there.
    I'm not disputing that free verse can be good, but I don't really see how it's different from good prose.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leopard View Post
    Neither poetry nor prose? I can't see what would fit under that label other than perhaps an incoherent bunch of characters. And the other two distinctions seem too subjective to me.
    It does seem like an odd category, but I would put dictionaries, lists, maps, mathematical equations as well as good, old-fashioned gibberish in that category.

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    Free verse does not follow a metric pattern, but does have rythim, just this rythim is not a regular/traditional form. Just read Whitman, even the bad Whitman is rythimic.
    #foratemer

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    This is a reasonable definition, as far as I can see:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_verse

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dreamwoven View Post
    This is a reasonable definition, as far as I can see:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_verse
    The reference to "spaced prose" in a reference to William Morrison Patterson in that link seems interesting. However, that space metaphor is confusing since language is something people hear not see. At least that is how I relate to language in general. I have to sound out the words for them to have meaning even though the sound is only performed in my head. I don't visualize a word in my mind neither as a text nor as an image.

    There is something wrong with free verse. It doesn't use meter, but it does use line breaks and other formatting but restricting that formatting to what an early 20th century typewriter could perform. Why not get rid of the line breaks as well or expand the formatting to include font choice and size? Would it then be confused with prose or gibberish?

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    Again, Free verse does not mean absence of rythim (or watever it is called to replace metre by modern poets), it is absence of rythim pattern. If you consider Song of Myself as Free verse, you will see the obvious rythim.
    #foratemer

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    The good thing about emphasizing rhythm is that it is something that is heard, even internally when we speak to ourselves, and not seen. However, prose has rhythm as well. So what distinguishes free verse from prose. We are back to the original question.

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    Well, you have different things, verse, prose, poems, poetry. You can define verse as one of the unities of a poem (the specific definition), you will not have such problem. You also can say, Poetry is something different from poems and can be used in prose. The famous prose poems are exactly the mix between poems and prose, the two different forms, neither prose or a poem, but both at sametime.
    #foratemer

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    Well, 'verse' means 'a line,' so even Whitman's poems possess a line. Free is free - do anything you want I guess - hence, the nomenclature. Still, I get your point, for the name is a conundrum: how can a poem be free when a poem is ipso facto an ordered structure. Sometimes reality cannot be adequately explained via language as the Sophists learned. It is just a name whose function is mere differentiation.

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    Until a culture is able to write the poem down, there isn't even a line. Only a sound pattern that people in that culture hear.

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