In his groundbreaking study on "The Prosodies of Free Verse" from 1971, Donald Wesling distinguished five different prosodic types in the history of free verse prosody:
- Whitmanic, referring to Whitman's adaptation of "the biblical verset and syntax" in "end-stopped lines .., .with boundaries so often equivalent to those of larger units of grammar," which Wesling sees as "constitut[ing] the precomposition or matrix of free verse in English" (166-67);
- "line-sentences," as developed by Pound in Cathay on the basis of Ernest Fenollosa's theories of the sentence derived from study of Chinese;
- dismemberment of the line, whereby the line becomes "ground to the figures of its smaller units" (181), and, as a sub-category, spatial dismemberment of the line by indentation, as by Williams in his triadic line verse;
- systematic enjambment, whereby "[t]he lines.., .are figures on the ground of the larger unit, the stanza" (181);
- dismemberment together with enjambment of the line, such that "the middle units on the rank scale engage in a protean series of identity shifts as between figure and ground." (181)
Based on this typology extended by Wesling in later works, we distinguish 18 rhythmic patterns based on the following three pattern types:
The long liners were developed by Walt Whitman on the basis of the King James Bible and later adopted by the French authors of Verset around 1900. The long-liner, built without enjambements, became influential in Germany through Alan Ginsberg's Howl and found a further development in the theory of the long poem (Höllerer).
The Parlando is a prosodic form comparable to the Litany, developed in poems by Gottfried Benn and taken up by Peter Rühmkorf or Uwe Kolbe; in the present it has been taken up by poets such as Hendrik Jackson and Steffen Popp. The parlando - like the'variable foot' - has an isocolic structure, but does not follow the 'breath controlled line' rule.
In the "rapping" prosody of slam poetry, the term "flow" describes the ability to rhythmically shape rhymed language. This principle of flow was developed in poetry by Nuyorican poets like Maggie Estep, Dana Bryant, Sekou Sundiata or Amir Sulaiman and adopted in Germany by rap poets like Bas Böttcher.
The free association describes the prosody of écriture automatique, which was developed by authors of Surrealism such as Breton, Éluard, Desnos and Soupault, and used in German-language poetry by authors such as Hans Arp, Friederike Mayröcker or Richard Anders.
The cadence is a prosodic form developed by the American Imagists (Fletcher, Hulme, Pound, Lowell) around 1910. The basic idea is that each line corresponds to a breathing bow. In his famous collection of poems "Cathay", Ezra Pound uses the "line-sentence", in which each line comprises a sentence, as the basis for the cadence. In Germany the cadence became influential after 1945 for poets like Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Nicolas Born or Jürgen Becker.
The enjambement is a line break in a run-on-sentence, so that the unit of sentence or the sense extends beyond the end of a line to the next one. Most authors do not read these line breaks. Such unstressed enjambments belong to the idea of the "field composition" developed by Black Mountain Poet Charles Olson.
The variable foot was developed by William Carlos Williams in his work "Patterson" and is based on the idea that each line corresponds exactly to a single breath unit. Unlike cadence, the length of the line corresponds not to one sentence, but to a colon, so it is an isocolic rhythmical pattern.
The 'Sprung Rhythm' was developed by Gerard Manley Hopkins. It occurs when in a single foot a stressed syllable is followed by unstressed syllables, the number of which can range from zero to usually three. The sprung rhythm differs from the cadence because only the unstressed syllables can be freely varied: In the cadence the poet can also vary the number of stressed syllables.
The syncopation was developed in the prosody of early jazz poetry by poets like Langston Hughes and basically denotes an accentuated offbeat. This pattern can of course be extremely accelerated in phrasing, for example by hip hop poets and poetry slammers like Bas Böttcher or Saul Williams.
The Rubato is a rhythmic structural model that goes back to John Cage's Lectures on Nothing and can be understood as a slowdown or acceleration of the reading of the text in the performance, often combined with the demand that the "stolen time" has to be given back.
The "Gestic rhythm" was developed by Bertolt Brechts in his essay "On Rhymeless Verse and Irregular Rhythms " and compared to the "faltering breath of a man running". This faltering counter-rhythm is realized primarily through the use of enjambements. Poets of the former GDR such as Kerstin Hensel or Karl Mickel emphasize the enjambement by making a pause: a technique that leads back to Brecht's influence.
Ellipses in poems are the omission of one or more grammatically necessary phrases. This rhetorical figure can also affect the prosody of a poem, which has been observed in poetry since the Dadaists.
The syllabic decomposition is a division of words into syllables, for example in Dadaistic Poetry or Poems from authors such as Ernst Jandl, Valerie Scherstjanoi, Franz Mon, Gerhard Rühm or Michael Lentz. The most important example goes back to Kurt Schwitters in the famous "Ursonate", who transformed the Lettristic poem "fmsbw" by the Dadaist Raoul Hausmann into a syllabic decomposition: "Fümms bö wö tää zäää Uu".
Lettristic decomposition is an atomistic decomposition of language into its smallest and not further divisible units and the recombination of these individual elements. It was used by authors such as Valeri Scherstjanoi, Gerhard Rühm, Ernst Jandl, Hans G Helms, Franz Mon, Oskar Pastior, and Michael Lentz. An early example is the poem "fmsbw" by Dadaist Raoul Hausmann.