For the longest time I’ve thought that free verse was not real poetry. Now, I’m willing to accept that some damn good poems can be made using it (case in point: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Say what you will of his use of rhyme or maybe flow, but really, let’s not kid ourselves: he’s writing in free verse.). I’ve still never been a fan of writing in free verse, despite this. It just seems to me that it’s a breeding ground for every other would-be poet to write in this one form, convinced of their superiority and instant ability when they’ve only just begun writing (because, in all honesty, one does not simply walk into Mordor start writing masterpieces; poetry is one of the biggest trial-and-error processes around), and when all they’re really doing is writing chopped-up prose.
I was in a Creative Writing class in poetry once, and one time while peer reviewing someone else’s poem in front of the class, one of my critiques was that it sounded more like chopped up prose than a poem. I was cut off by the real-life example of Dr. J. Evans Pritchard, Ph.D., who explained in the most matter-of-fact tone of voice that Prose Poetry was actually a legitimate form of poetry, and respected in its field. I thought he was being sarcastic, but no, he was dead serious. Here I thought saying that someone wrote what looks like a stream of consciousness broken into arbitrary lines in order to fit it into a different genre was a bad thing. Apparently it’s a compliment now. It’s almost like free verse isn’t a branch of poetry, but a form that’s people are expected to write, so that it has branches of its own. Call me a traditionalist, but there’s a reason that poetry is so closely related to meter and rhyming aesthetics, and there’s a reason why I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard someone say an accidental rhyme and follow it with “I’m a poet and don’t even know it!” Maybe I’m just an old man, snapping at younger kids about how they’re corrupting the world, and how things were so much better back in the old days, when men were men and a nickel could buy you groceries for a week. I’m only nineteen, though.
Anyway, a poem:
“Prose Poetry,” he says to me,
“I promise you it’s real.
It’s really unconventional
And has much more appeal.
Its meanings can be understood;
Its words are less surreal.
“For rhymes are cheap and overused,
And meter’s hard to write,
So when the language seems abused,
The poem must be right.
Before, it took some skill to write,
Now anybody might!
“And that’s what I call poetry!”
I laughed so hard I think I cried.
~Michael Danger Caskey