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How to Write: Week 11: Rhyming: Sunday (Technique)

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    Ask 9 out of 10 non-poets what a poem must have to be a poem and they will say “rhyme”.  Unfortunately because rhyme is mnemonically responsible for our brains to remember that poetry and songs exist, rhyming will always be one of the most identified aspects.
    To this end, it is important to be able to write rhyming poetry.  Undoubtedly, you will get the idea or the request to write a poem for a wedding, funeral, bridal shower, baby shower, etc and you will have to cater to non-poets.  Yes, poetry/art is meant to entertain and instruct, but you are not giving a lecture on poetry, you are sharing your expression with people you care about and you want them to understand.  Now, if they seek you later and ask after the poem, you may dazzle them with your free verse or more intricate rhymes.
    Also you will occasionally run into a rhyming purist, someone who will insist poetry MUST rhyme.  It is unlikely you will convince them your free verse is anything more than prose in sentence fragments.  To appease them or to open them up to the possibility you might be a “real” poet you should have decent rhymed poetry.
    The necessity of appeasement is not because you should inherently care what they think.  It is for the sake of the poetry community.  There are so few of us as it is, we can’t afford to ostracize even the single-minded “purists”.
    There are three types of rhyme which most rhymed pieces fall to:
        1. End rhyme – rhyme at the end of a line;
            Example – I saw a frog / He sat on a log;
        2. Internal rhyme – rhymes within a line;
            Example – Upon this log I saw a frog;
        3. Slant rhyme – rhymes which are almost exact rhyme,
        but not quite;
            Example – I saw a frog / His leg was tugged.
    These are not the only kinds of rhyme, but we can start here.
    There are some people who are certainly completely against rhyme, especially end rhyme – calling it childish.  What they don’t realize is rhyme is a tool which can be used for an effect, just like any other writing technique.
    It is up to you to know when rhyme will help your piece (not just poetry, fiction and nonfiction can also benefit from rhyme).  Use rhyme as you see fit to your greatest expressive possibilities. 

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Azriel Johnson is an inkspatter analyst by day and a serial writer by night. He runs a small, not money losing publishing press and a weekly open mic with monthly features called Writing Knights Press.

1 comment:

  1. Marcus Bales-- undoubtably the most impassioned advocate of rhymed verse in the area-- once made an interesting observation to me after a poetry reading. He pointed out that in a free verse poem, an awkward line is mostly forgettable, and as a result, a poem in free verse is remembered for its best line. In a rhymed poem, on the other hand, the worst line will clang and as a result, a rhymed poem is remembered for its worst line.
    So, rhymed poetry is always much harder than unrhymed.