Walt Whitman is best remembered for writing poems that don’t rhyme. He pioneered the concept of free verse, and left his legacy in Leaves of Grass, the only poetry collection most Americans have ever heard of.
Free verse is more difficult to write well than standard verse because the poet has more decisions to make. Standard poetry relies on the sounds generated by rhyme and meter for rhythm. The lines of a free verse generate their own internal rhythm.
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
“O Captain! My Captain!” is one of Whitman’s few poems that actually employs a structured rhyme scheme and meter. Whitman wrote “O Captain!” while grieving over the assassination of Lincoln. Sadness stifled his creative ability and forced him back inside the box.
A depressed mood inhibits exploratory thinking. This is unfortunate, because creative experiences encourage the release of dopamine, reinforcing a positive mood and a generative mindset.
Happy people are creative, and creative people are happy. So what are sad people supposed to do? Write structured poetry, of course.
(Create something according to set boundaries.)
1. “O Captain! My Captain!” W. Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1900.
2. Seeing Positive: Positive Mood Enhances Visual Cortical Encoding –American Psychological Association