48 of the Best Free Verse Poems From Contemporary Poets

CJ Connor


CJ Connor is a cozy mystery and romance writer whose main goal in life is to make their dog proud. They are a Pitch Wars alumnus and an Author Mentor Match R9 mentor. Their debut mystery novel BOARD TO DEATH is forthcoming from Kensington Books. Twitter: @cjconnorwrites |

Robert Frost called free verse “playing with the net down.” And T.S. Eliot wrote, “No verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job.” Yet Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, and plenty of contemporary poets are among the many who have written beautiful work in free verse. But what are free verse poems, anyway, and why the controversy?

What Are Free Verse Poems?

Free verse is here defined as a poem with no set meter or verse that mimics natural speech patterns. Free verse poems can be short or long, contain sporadic rhymes or none at all, and be conveyed in spoken or written mediums. Because a free verse poem isn’t tied to any specific form, poets generally have more room to experiment with structure than they would with other styles.

Critics argue that since they contain no regular rhyme and meter, free verse poems are just glorified prose. But those who write or appreciate free verse feel that free verse has its own tools beyond meter or rhyme—like punctuation, line break, and vocabulary—that makes it just as legitimate of a poetic form as other styles.

The Best Free Verse Poems

Still confused about what free verse poetry encompasses and need a few examples? Check out these 50 exceptional free verse poems, from the famous to the up-and-coming and everything in-between.

1. “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” by Walt Whitman

2. “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes

3. “From Blossoms” by Li-Young Lee

4. “The Pool” by H.D.

5. “I Carry Your Heart with Me (I Carry It In My Heart)” by E.E. Cummings

6. “Risk” by Anaïs Nin

7. “Sloe Gin” by Seamus Heaney

9. “Anne Hathaway” by Carol Ann Duffy

10. “The Crickets Have Arthritis” by Shane Koyczan

11. “The Good Life” by Tracy K. Smith

12. “Praise the Rain” by Joy Harjo

13. “Typewriter Series #1950” by Tyler Knott Gregson

14. “In the Metro Station” by Ezra Pound

15. “Siren Song” by Margaret Atwood

17. “You Took the Last Bus Home” by Brian Bilston

18. “Vacation” by Rita Dove

19. “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden

20. “Fog” by Carl Sandburg

22. “Tulips” by Sylvia Plath

23. “In the Hospital” by Chen Chen

24. “The Snow Man” by Wallace Stevens

25. “Diving into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich

26. “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou

27. “Autumn” by T.E. Hulme

28. “Theory of Motion (6), Nocturne” by Cam Awkward-Rich

29. “The Peace of Wild things” by Wendell Berry

30. “To the Desert” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

31. “Overheard on the Titanic” by Austin Kleon

32. “Hurry” by Marie Howe

33. “How to Triumph Like a Girl” by Ada Limón

34. “OCD” by Neil Hilborn

35. “Kissing in Vietnamese” by Ocean Vuong

36. “Quilts” by Nikki Giovanni

38. “The First Person Who Will Live to Be One Hundred and Fifty Years Old Has Already Been Born” by Nicole Sealey

39. “Hudson’s Geese” by Leslie Norris

40. “A Supermarket in California” by Allen Ginsberg

41. “The Promise” by Jane Hirschfield

42. “Church” by Jacqueline Woodson

43. “Shake the Dust” by Anis Mojgani

44.”Angels” by Mary Oliver

45.”Sad and Alone” by Maurice Manning

46. “Thank You” by Ross Gay

47. “Theories of Time and Space” by Natasha Trethewey

48. “When Love Arrives” by Sarah Kay & Phil Kaye

We just covered 48 of the best classic and contemporary free verse poems. Still need more to soothe your poetry fix? Check out these 15 delectable poems about food and eating.