free verse, term loosely used for rhymed or unrhymed verse made free of conventional and traditional limitations and restrictions in regard to metrical structure. Cadence, especially that of common speech, is often substituted for regular metrical pattern. Free verse is a literal translation of the French vers libre, which originated in late 19th-century France among poets, such as Arthur Rimbaud and Jules Laforgue, who sought to free poetry from the metrical regularity of the alexandrine. The term has also been applied by modern literary critics to the King James translation of the Bible, particularly the Song of Solomon and the Psalms, to certain poems of Matthew Arnold, and to the irregular poetry of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. The form is also closely associated with English and American poets of the 20th cent. who sought greater liberty in verse structure, including Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg, and Marianne Moore.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.