Here is an example of English poetry written in a regular meter: , the standard meter of English literary poetry.
An iamb is a metrical foot consisting of two syllables.
The American poet Emily Dickinson, though shrinking from offering a definition of poetry, once confided in a letter, "If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry." A well-known British poet, A. Housman, could identify poetry through a similar response.
He said that he had to keep a close watch over his thoughts when he was shaving in the morning, for if a line of poetry strayed into his memory, a shiver raced down his spine and his skin would bristle so that his razor ceased to act.
The long, rolling, repetitive lines of American poet Walt Whitman and the passionate Hebrew psalms found in the Holy Bible are well-known older examples of free verse.
Free verse has grown in popularity since the early twentieth century and has now pretty well "swept the field," as poet Stanley Kunitz observed.
Yet another stated, even more enigmatically: "Poetry is a pheasant disappearing in the brush." It is just like poets, of course, to talk this way: .
It often seems they refrain from saying a thing straight if they can give it a little twist.
This was vital to poetry's existence before the invention of writing.
Homer's vast epics, the , were oral compositions committed to and transmitted by human memory before they were eventually written down.