Words from a member

You and the entire membership of Netwest have been an inspiration to me in my writing life. The group is a welcoming & encouraging gathering of like-people. Thank you for all you've done for others. It does not go unnoticed.
Nancy Purcell

Monday, December 9, 2013

Poets, What do you think?

This post is from an article by Nancy Simpson, “Writing Free Verse: Some Questions and Answers,” posted on this blog December 17, 2011.

3) QUESTION: Do I have to punctuate?

ANSWER: No. This is your choice. Once in a while, in the literary magazines, I read poems that have no punctuation. However, it is as if the poem were punctuated and then the poet lifted out the punctuation marks. There is no rule, but caution would say, help the reader all you can. If there were a rule regarding punctuation, it would be: Do not lose your reader.

4) QUESTION: What is the rule for line breaks?

ANSWER: There is no rule. Line breaks are completely your responsibility and your choice. Some free verse poets work in unrhymed meter, some count syllables, some spoon feed the reader one thought on one line and the next bite on the next line. There are no rules, but there are a few guidelines.

A.) End the line with a strong word, not a weak word such as a, and, or the.

B.) Be aware of your one-word lines. That one word you want to use will draw attention to itself. It had better be great, for it will provoke questions, and it will slow your reader.

C.) If your line is too wide for a narrow page, it will wrap, and you will lose whatever it was you were trying to accomplish. Editors shun the wide line that wants to wrap.

D.) If there were one rule to line breaks, it would be, work your lines.

Read the entire article here.


  1. Thank you for sharing some of Nancy Simpson's wisdom about free verse. Using strong words at the end of the line, at the turn, is what I strive for. I can't always find just the word I seek, but Nancy's voice is always right there in my ear, urging me to try use a word that urges the reader on. She is a wonderful teacher.
    Carole R. Thompson

  2. Net West, I was surprised to see this reposted. It has been a long time since I wrote it. I still like to share the basic guidelines for writing contemporary American poetry. I hope to teach a new poetry class for Netwest soon.

  3. This is a great article and I'm so glad it has been posted again. Nancy is my mentor, I've studied a lot under her and this is a wonderful article.


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