Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Free Verse

"This is a Photograph of Me" by Margaret Atwood.

It was taken some time ago.
At first it seems to be
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks
blended with the paper;

then, as you scan
it, you see in the left-hand corner
a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree
(balsam or spruce) emerging
and, to the right, halfway up
what ought to be a gentle
slope, a small frame house.

In the background there is a lake,
and beyond that, some low hills.

(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.

I am in the lake, in the center
of the picture, just under the surface.

It is difficult to say where
precisely, or to say
how large or small I am:
the effect of water
on light is a distortion

but if you look long enough,
you will be able to see me.)

Free Verse is probably the closest poetry gets to becoming prose before crossing over the line. It is a form of poetry with no rules or restrictions nor anything that must be done to classify it. In most free verse poems there is a story being told. In "This is a Photograph of Me" the speaker describes a photograph and in turn tells a story. The first image revealed about the photograph appears to be nothing more than a landscape. Through the first half of the poem we find ourselves questioning the connection of the title until we come to the parentheses.

The sudden shift in the poem, specifically distinguished by the punctuation, is suprising and shocking. The speaker has a non-chalant tone to his/her voice when stating "The photograph was taken/the day after I drowned." Suddenly, the poem is no longer peaceful but almost terrifying. Suddenly we realize that amidst this beautiful landscape with the hills and lake is a tragic story of someone's death. The free verse of the poem also contributes to the non-chalant tone of the speaker. With no specific structure to the poem it feels as if the speaker is casually telling this story that would otherwise be horrific.

In this poem the author uses enjambement to give a flowing feeling to the poem. Again, this contributes to the storytelling aspect of the poem. Since this is free verse, the author is not restrained to ending each line with a period or some type of punctuation. Instead, she is able to continue thoughts through multiple lines and even stanzas.

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