Foundations of Free Verse

In 1909, French poet Camille Mauclair wrote, “There are as many kinds of free verse as there are poets.” The popular narrative continues to promote this appealingly democratic idea. But, while every poet is unique, there are nevertheless distinct and important technical traditions that underlie the practice of free verse. In this five-week online workshop, we’ll explore some of the major organizing principles—rhetorical, phrasal, sonic, metaphorical, typographical, etc.—that poets have used since they began writing poems without regular metrical and stanzaic schemes. We’ll move beyond the definition of free verse according to what it isn’t and consider the positive effects of its more improvisatory, but eminently recognizable, patterns. Readings will include poems from the ninth-century BCE up to the twenty-first century CE. Class sessions will meet synchronously via Zoom every Sunday, and assignments, poems and critiques will be shared via Wet Ink.

Workshop Details


  • Teacher: Joshua Mehigan
  • Level: I
  • Dates: Jul 10–Aug 7, 2022 (July 31 off)
  • Time: Sundays, 5:30–8:30 pm (ET)
  • Location: online via Zoom
  • Cost: $395
  • Class size: 5–10 students
  • Registration deadline: SUN, JUL 3, 2022
  • Earlybird discount: $15 off through SUN, JUNE 19
Joshua Mehigan

Joshua Mehigan

Joshua Mehigan’s second book, Accepting the Disaster (FSG, 2014), was cited in the TLS, the New York Times Book Review and elsewhere as a best book of 2015. His poems have appeared in many periodicals, including the New Yorker, the Paris Review and Poetry, which awarded him its 2013 Levinson Prize. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. Mehigan has taught at Brooklyn College and other CUNY schools, and from 2017 to 2020 was a visiting poet at Northwestern University. He has lived in Brooklyn (South Slope, Downtown, Clinton Hill, North Slope, Gowanus, and Windsor Terrace) for thirty years.