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Poetry: Blank and Free Verse

Updated on January 6, 2015
Marie Flint profile image

Marie is a Michigan State University alumnus and has over 10 years of business writing experience. She writes content, poetry, and stories.

Christopher Marlowe (bap. 1564-1593)
Christopher Marlowe (bap. 1564-1593) | Source

Blank Verse

Christopher Marlowe was the first English poet to use blank verse, which is defined as unrhyming lines using iambic pentameter (ta-da, ta-da rhythm, repeated). In ancient epics, ten "feet", each foot having 1-3 syllables with one "da" (stress), per line were popular, but varied according to topic and author.

An example of blank verse by Marlowe is as follows:

Like to an almond tree y-mounted high

Upon the lofty and celestial mount

Of evergreen Selinus, quaintly deck’d

With blooms more white than Erycina’s brows,

Whose tender blossoms tremble every one

At every little breath that thorough heaven is blown.

--Tamburlaine,Part II. Act iv. sc. iii. (circa 1590)

This particular verse contains six lines in its stanza (in poetry, a stanza is similar to a paragraph in prose) and ten syllables in each line, making five metric feet of iambic beat (hence, the term iambic pentameter, with "pent" being equal to "five")--except the last line, which has twelve (12) syllables (iambic hexameter).

Note that each line begins with a capital letter whether or not the sentence is complete. This is a common style in poetry, but not a rule. And, there are only two end-of-line punctuation marks: the comma in line 4, and the period at the end of line 6. Line punctuation can vary considerably in blank verse--everything from standard punctuation to none at all!

Walt Whitman (1887)
Walt Whitman (1887) | Source

Free Verse

A term describing various styles of poetry that are not written using strict meter or rhyme, but that still are recognizable as 'poetry' by virtue of complex patterns of one sort or another that readers can perceive to be part of a coherent whole.


According to, Walt Whitman is familiarly credited as the first free verse poet in English. However, free verse in English goes back as far as Abraham Cowley (circa 1665) and includes many other poets who lived and died long before Whitman. Free verse, however, came of age and became fashionable in the 20th century.

Examples: "Song of Myself" and "Fog"

ONE’S-SELF I sing—a simple, separate Person;

Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-masse.

Of Physiology from top to toe I sing;

Not physiognomy alone, nor brain alone, is worthy for the muse—I say the Form

complete is worthier far;

The Female equally with the male I sing.

Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power,

Cheerful—for freest action form’d, under the laws divine,

The Modern Man I sing.

--Walt Whitman (1819-1892), "One's-Self I Sing" from LEAVES OF GRASS

Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)
Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) | Source

THE fog comes

on little cat feet.

It sits looking

over harbor and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on.

--Carl Sandburg (1896) "Fog"

Credits and Resources

http:/ (T.S. Eliot's Critique on Marlowe's Tamburlaine) (Description of Line Meter in Poetry) (Definition of Free Verse) (History of Free Verse) (Walt Whitman's LEAVES OF GRASS)


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    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 3 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Thank you Marie - Mr Marlowe was a clever young chappie born of humble parentage like Will Shakespeare, both rarely gifted, able to take the English language to new heights.

      Walt Whitman I admire greatly, the first true modern I think, breaking the ground like a brave pioneer, a cosmos indeed. Humanity and spirit combine - he wrote about taboo subjects too. And Carl Sandburg I still read. He has such a lyrical genius, his poems stretching from simple song to profound depths, as in his war poem Grass.

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 4 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Thank you, Writer Fox. The hub was written as a very basic explanation of non-rhyming verse for those who have been dabbling with the form here on hub pages but were missing the boat.

      I see you've made comments about Shakespeare in the Forum as well. You must have studied him recently or are in the process of doing so. I am aware of his later embodiment as Saint Germain, the Wonderman of Europe, and the spiritual sponsor of the United States.

      I love the discipline of the older forms of poetry. A poet has to choose to choose his words carefully--quite a challenge!

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 4 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      Shakespeare was a contemporary of Christopher Marlowe and all of his plays are written in blank verse. Of course, he was a master of rhyming sonnets as well. Enjoyed the examples you give here and voted up.!

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 4 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      The trend today is to self publish. Have you visited Nellieanna here at Hub Pages? She does a lot of poetry.

      I prefer rhyme myself, but blank verse can be good with rhythm and imagery.

      I sometimes visit People can publish there, but I think it's voluntary.

      If you have a prolific number of poems, seriously think about self publishing. Also, contribute to regional or literary magazines (usually 5 poems at a time is acceptable; check writer's guidelines for the magazine of your choice. )

      Thank you for visiting and commenting!

    • profile image

      Rayne123 4 years ago

      HI Marie

      This hub is great.

      Like I mentioned earlier I am working on poems or trying to find a publisher for them. However I have no clue where to start or what to do.

      My style is rhyming, I am not sure why I chose this style but for me personally it feels more like a poem and I am able to feel from my heart.

      Your hub is inspirational

      Thank you

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 4 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      I wish to thank the team at HubPages for deleting the ads on this hub to allow for proper line display of Christopher Marlowe's poem.

      I hope this hub provides information and inspiration for anyone who is thinking about writing a poem.

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 4 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      A poem is a bit like an interesting stone--it becomes beautiful when it undergoes polishing! Welcome to the world of poetry!

    • Mr Archer profile image

      Mr Archer 4 years ago from Missouri

      Thank you Marie. So this is what you were speaking of to me. Now, I understand.

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 4 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      I see poetry at HubPages from time to time--some of it noteworthy and some that needs work. I offer my research as a review and inspiration for fellow hubbers who like to write poetry.

      So many poetry forms are being used today. I recommend that poets and aspiring poets, or even on-the-spur-of-the-moment poets experiment with the various forms available to see which fits best for your message. What feels right?

      I've covered a little about blank and free verse because these two forms are the most popular today.

      Think about what you want to say. Try to incorporate imagery and rhythm. If you get tired or frustrated, let it sit. Come back to the poem at another time when you feel refreshed.

      Often it has been said that the best time for creativity is early in the morning between the hours of 2:00 and 5:00.

      Don't be afraid to check I go there frequently! The thesaurus is great, too.

      Above all, enjoy your writing. If it comes from the heart, it's worth it. ***