Beginner's Guide: 5 Steps to Teach Blank Verse
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


  1. Introduction to Blank Verse
  2. Analyze Examples of Blank Verse
  3. Write Your Own Blank Verse
  4. Critique and Revise
  5. Present and Discuss

Imagine having the power in your hands to paint vivid pictures and tell compelling stories using the graceful rhythm of blank verse in poetry. Yes, we're talking about the same poetic form that the great Shakespeare and Milton favored in their iconic works. Sounds exciting, doesn't it? If you're wondering how to start, you're in luck! This blog is your beginner's guide to teach blank verse in poetry, broken down into five easy-to-follow steps.

Introduction to Blank Verse

First, let's get to know what blank verse is. It's a type of poetry that doesn't use rhymes at the end of lines but instead creates rhythm through a pattern called iambic pentameter. Don't let that term scare you off—it's simpler than it sounds!

Understanding Iambic Pentameter

Iambic pentameter is a rhythm pattern that poetry often uses. Here's how it works:

  • An 'iamb' is a unit of rhythm that has two syllables. The first syllable is soft, and the second one is stressed. Think of the word behold, where you lightly say 'be-' and stress '-hold'.
  • 'Pentameter' means that there are five iambs in a line. So, iambic pentameter is a line of poetry with five iambs, which makes it a 10-syllable line.

That's it! Now, you're ready to teach blank verse in poetry, starting with understanding its rhythm.

Why Use Blank Verse?

Blank verse has a secret superpower—it mimics the natural rhythms of English speech. Even when we're chatting with friends, we often stress every second syllable without even realizing it. So, a poem written in blank verse feels more natural and less sing-songy than rhymed verse. This makes blank verse a great tool for crafting dramatic monologues or exploring complex ideas in poetry—it's like having a conversation, but in a more elegant and structured way.

Examples of Blank Verse in Poetry

Famous poets have used blank verse to create some of the most memorable lines in English literature. Take this line from Shakespeare's "Hamlet": "To be, or not to be: that is the question". If you read it out loud, you'll notice the rhythm of stressed and unstressed syllables—that's iambic pentameter in action! Another example is from John Milton's "Paradise Lost": "Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit". Again, the rhythm is unmistakable. You can use these famous lines to teach blank verse in poetry, showing how it can bring a unique rhythm to the words.

Now that you have a solid grasp on blank verse and its rhythm, you're ready to explore some examples more deeply. Stay tuned for the next section!

Analyze Examples of Blank Verse

Now that you're comfortable with what blank verse is, let's dig a little deeper. To truly teach blank verse in poetry, it's important to analyze and understand how it's used in some of the most famous works.

Breaking Down Shakespeare's Use of Blank Verse

When it comes to blank verse, there's no better place to start than with the master himself—William Shakespeare. His plays are full of blank verse, and they provide an excellent opportunity to teach its subtleties. Let's take a look at a line from "Macbeth":

Is this a dagger which I see before me?

As you read it, you'll notice that it feels natural, just like speaking. The rhythm is set by the alternating stressed and unstressed syllables. Count them, and you'll find there are ten syllables in total, making it a perfect example of iambic pentameter.

Exploring Milton's Paradise Lost

John Milton's "Paradise Lost" is another treasure trove of blank verse. The epic poem, written entirely in blank verse, brings a majestic rhythm to the tale of Adam and Eve. Consider this line:

Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit

Even though there's no rhyme, the rhythm of the line carries you along. The alternating stressed and unstressed syllables create a natural ebb and flow. This is a fantastic example to use when you teach blank verse in poetry.

Modern Examples of Blank Verse

Blank verse isn't just a thing of the past. Modern poets also use this form to bring a natural, speech-like rhythm to their work. For instance, T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" uses blank verse to create a flowing, conversational tone:

Let us go then, you and I,

This line is an excellent example of how blank verse can be used in contemporary poetry. It's worth noting that modern poets sometimes play with the strict iambic pentameter, adding variation to the rhythm. This flexibility keeps blank verse fresh and engaging, even in the modern era.

By analyzing these examples, you can get a deeper understanding of how blank verse works in different contexts. Next, we'll take the leap from theory to practice and write our own blank verse.

Write Your Own Blank Verse

Once you have a handle on what blank verse looks like, the next step in learning to teach blank verse in poetry is to try your hand at writing it. Don't worry if it seems intimidating at first—like anything else, it gets easier with practice. Let's get started.

Step 1: Find Your Rhythm

Remember, blank verse is unrhymed iambic pentameter. That means each line should have ten syllables, with an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one. You can start by writing a simple sentence, like:

I am going to the store to buy bread.

Read it aloud, emphasizing every second syllable. You'll start to hear the rhythm—da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM. That's the heartbeat of your blank verse.

Step 2: Play with Imagery

Now that you've got the rhythm, let's add some flair. Poetry is all about creating vivid images and stirring emotions. Try to describe a simple scene in a way that makes it come alive. Maybe that trip to the store becomes:

Through morning mist, for daily bread, I tread.

See how it paints a picture? That's the power of poetry, even in blank verse.

Step 3: Keep Practicing

Don't be discouraged if your first attempts at blank verse don't turn out as you'd hoped. Even Shakespeare had to start somewhere. Keep trying, keep experimenting, and before you know it, you'll be creating beautiful blank verse with ease.

After you've written your own blank verse, the next step is to critique and revise your work. We'll cover that in the next section.

Critique and Revise

Now that you've dipped your toes into the ocean of blank verse, it's time to refine your creation. No poem is perfect in its first draft—revision is a key part of the creative process. Let's walk through how to polish your blank verse.

Step 1: Review Your Rhythm

Go back to your poem and read it aloud. Does every line follow the iambic pentameter rhythm? If not, that's your first area for revision. Remember, you want that steady da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM rhythm. It may need a little tweaking, but you'll get there.

Step 2: Check Your Imagery

Next, look at the imagery in your poem. Does it create a clear, vivid picture? Does it stir emotions? If it doesn't, think about how you can strengthen your descriptions. For example, instead of just a 'morning mist,' could it be a 'silver dawn's veil'? Don't be afraid to get creative—this is your chance to make your poem shine.

Step 3: Seek Feedback

Finally, don't be shy about sharing your work with others. They can provide valuable feedback and fresh perspectives that can help you improve. Remember, even the greatest poets had mentors and peers to help them along their journey.

After you've polished your poem, the next step is to present and discuss it. We'll explore that in the next section.

Present and Discuss

Alright, your poem is polished and ready to shine. It's time to share your work and discuss it with others. This step can be a little intimidating, but it's also incredibly rewarding. Let's see how you can go about it.

Step 1: Find Your Audience

First, you need to find your audience. It could be your classmates, your family, or a local poetry group. Don't shy away from sharing your work—it's an important part of learning how to teach blank verse in poetry.

Step 2: Read Your Poem Aloud

When it's time to present your poem, remember to read it aloud. This will help you understand the flow and rhythm of the blank verse. It's a good idea to practice beforehand so you can deliver your poem confidently.

Step 3: Encourage Discussion

After you've read your poem, encourage your audience to share their thoughts. What did they like? What didn't they understand? This feedback can provide valuable insights and help you improve your future poems.

And there you have it—you've learned how to teach blank verse in poetry, from understanding its basics to writing and refining your own poem. So, what are you waiting for? It's time to dive into the wonderful world of blank verse!

If you enjoyed this beginner's guide to blank verse and want to dive deeper into the world of poetry, check out Alieu Drammeh's workshop, '10 Minute Poetry Challenge : THINK LESS, WRITE MORE!.' This workshop will help you unlock your creativity and improve your poetry writing skills in just 10 minutes a day.