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Rhyming Poetry: DOs, DON’Ts, And DEFINITIONS

 Editors hate rhyming poetry. Or do they? Rhyme has become something of a sore subject in the world of contemporary poetry, but to many poetry editors, there’s good reason for the shift. A number of writers who work in rhyme have yet to distinguish between the nursery rhymes of childhood and more adult types of verse. Recollections of the fun, frilly words that cheered and delighted us as children may be the reason editors tend to avoid rhyming poems.

If we are to write rhyming poetry that transcends childhood nursery rhymes, we must understand the importance of alliteration, assonance, and consonance and what they can bring to our work. These elements of rhyme become useful tools when used effectively.

Rhyme does not have to be an ABAB rhyme scheme. The rhyme scheme is the pattern of rhyming words in a poem. A typical rhyme scheme may look like this:

I went to the store
To buy some milk
But I found something more
A scarf of silk.

In the example above, store/more and milk/silk are examples of perfect rhyme (when the words sound the same because of the last syllable). Many poets find it difficult to handle perfect rhyme, since they run the risk of writing poems that sound forced or even clichéd. Mastering the different types of rhyme beyond ABAB improves poetry techniques and also creates a more sophisticated style of poem.

Understanding how to use rhyme effectively may give you the confidence you need to submit your rhyming poems to poetry editors (who may just be waiting for someone like you to get “rhyme” right). But in order to do that, you’ll need to see how good rhyming verse offers much more than words that merely “sound the same.”

While perfect rhyme is often found at the end of a line, there are a number of ways good rhyming poetry makes use of other kinds of rhyme. Internal rhyme (or middle rhyme) is rhyme that occurs in a single line of verse. Internal rhyme is a more subtle way of creating rhyming poetry. Edgar Allan Poe provided an excellent example of internal rhyme in “The Raven.” Take a look:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door
Only this, and nothing more.”

 

Here are a few types of rhyme that go beyond that singsong meter of childhood nursery rhymes.

Alliteration is when the same initial consonant sound repeats in close succession. You can see an example in the Poe verse above: “While I nodded, nearly napping…” Alliteration brings a more subtle form of music to an otherwise flat line.

Assonance is when the vowels in a given line rhyme. For example, “weak and weary” offers both alliteration and assonance.

Consonance is when one or two consonants in the words of a given phrase repeat in close succession, although the words themselves may not technically rhyme in the traditional “hat, sat, cat” sense. The rhyme is created within the internal structure of the words, based on the consonants. Examples: clip, clop.

Half rhyme is when the final consonants repeat: bowl, trawl.

Pararhyme can have much in common with the forms above. Pararhyme is when the consonants match, but the vowels are different. The consonance examples are also pararhyme (drip, drop). Sometimes, pararhyme may be called partial rhyme or imperfect rhyme.

Reverse rhyme is the opposite of what we think of as typical rhyme. Instead of the like sounds coming at the end of the words (fighter, lighter), the like sounds arrive at the beginning (gorge, gourd).

At Writer’s Relief we have worked with poets who specialize in rhyme, but the poetry must be exceptional. Learn how you can submit your poems for publication through Writer’s Relief.

small_quillQUESTION: Which of the above techniques have you found to work best in your rhyming poetry?

25 Responses to Rhyming Poetry: DOs, DON’Ts, And DEFINITIONS

  1. Like other people above I stumbled on this site. I had just finished another rhyming poem, and started to wonder what the world thinks of it.I Was interested in Helenes post from Australia about the Bush poetry. I have read alot on the subject, first of all because it resonates with our own cultural practice, and secondly because I first became aware of it while researching the background to an old bush poem called “The man from Snowy mountain”. It so happens that the hero in the poem comes from the same part of the West of Ireland, along the Wild Atlantic Way as myself.Interesting also that poetry is part of folk music events. Here in Ireland poems (recitations) are as natural in a traditional seisiún as a song.I myself am a performance poet in this bardic tradition.However it is when I write serious poems with rhyme that I feel like I’m doing something wrong. But bottom line I would wager €1000 that if serious poets wrote with rhyme they would quadruple their modest sales. That is not to say I have anything against free verse, and I have dozens of slim volumes on my bookshelves.Also when I go to ‘open mic’ events I get great respect and feedback from the real poets, and listeners who enjoy the performance.

  2. Having written free verse without premeditation for years, I recently decided my vocabulary was weak. As an exercise, I began studying various poetic forms. I wrote a total of 150 poems in about a year, all of which followed formal guidelines. The result: my poetry was much more succinct, colorful, descriptive and richer for having used the discipline of forms. I’m very proud of these poems and I still do love some formal poetry. To be clear however, I still have a great deal of affection for many poets who communicate very powerfully and clearly through the use of free verse. Good free verse poets choose their words as carefully as more formal poets. To claim such an adamant duality in poetry, is like missing Billy Taylor because you love J.S. Bach! Why limit your loves?

  3. Hi everyone, POETRY IS NOT DEAD! There I said it. I have no idea where all of you poets are from but here in Australia poetry is alive and well although, admittedly not really mainstream. There is a large network of ‘Cafe Poets’ around the country, people meet in cafes and read/discuss/write while sipping on lattes or chardonnay. Mostly these are ‘free verse’ poets, it’s a skill I’ve been exploring seeing as I have always been a rhyming poet. We also have a genre called bush poetry, the rule is that it has to rhyme (look up the Australian poets Henry Lawson and Banjo Patterson, there are many more but these 2 are the best known for their rhyming stories of the Australian bush). I belong to the Queanbeyan Bush Poets group and we are often asked to read/perform our poetry at various events. There are poetry festivals all over the country and every folk music festival tends to have poetry breakfasts and poetry gigs included. Then there is the Elvis festival in Parkes every January, even they have a poetry breakfast. So I suggest that wherever you live go out in search of a group to explore and if there isn’t one to join, create one. Rock on rhyming poets we still exist. See http://www.australianpoetry.org and http://www.abpa.org.au (the second one is the bush poetry association)

  4. My rhyming poems have sold well in stores, and many serious adults who said they didn’t like poetry bought mine and showed it to all of their friends. I put a lot into my work and won’t force a word simply because it rhymes. Over the years, only about three people ever suggested rhyming less. So poets, don’t be discouraged.

    p.s. I hear you, Terry Mason.

  5. What a pleasant surprise. I had thought that it was no longer respectable to admit to a liking for rhyme; however, it is now 2016, and the last entry here was posted in 2010. Why is that? Surely, more people have more to say on the subject. In fact, this is what led me here. I just finished reading,”The Poetry Circus” by Stanton A. Coblentz, and thought I’d look around to see what other people have to say on the subject of the decline and death of poetry in the 20th century. One clue is that Amazon now carries neither books by Coblentz nor other books on the same theme. Poetry is truly dead. No one even cares, although I don’t think it’s as dead as classical music. No one, with the exception of music critics, wants to listen to contemporary classical music. People still at least feign an interest in poetry. Could it be that poetry is not dead? Could it be that it’s just that the “poetry” of the last hundred years is dead and never really created an audience for itself, for good reason, I might add.

  6. I have over 100 poems and they all rhyme. I go to poetry readings and the poems they read sound like short stories to me, although they are great stories. I am always a little afraid to read mine because they do rhyme. I have always been confused if rhyming was still okay. This article helped.

  7. I posted my poem to a poetry group on Facebook and the poem itself delivers a very strong message. It rhymed also. I got a lot of great feedback, but this 1 guy said it sounded “dr Seuss-ish”. It hurt my feelings because I’ve tried not rhyming but freelance doesn’t sound like I put in the work. Just sounds like I am talking. All of my poems rhyme (and I don’t mean for them to be), I just let it flow out of me. Nonetheless, they all carry a message and I personally do not think they sound “Dr. Seuss-ish”

  8. I read through the comments just to enjoy the rhyming poems posted.
    Proof positive that adults still love rhymes.

  9. I really enjoyed the comments about this article. I have been composing poetry for the last three years.My first poems were lyrical rhyming dittys,childlike stuff, but I progressed.The learning curve has nowhere to go but up and like the above people I find contemporary poetry baffling. Like the comments above I cringe at criticizing modern contemporary poetry or their authors. Give me the classics and the rhyme.

  10. I started writing poetry March 2015 after the breakdown of a relationship and it was just a natural process that it should rhyme. I started going to open mic evenings and after a few weeks I got the courage to read my poetry which was received quite enthusiastically by the audience and other performers who either sang covers or their own songs. I have entered competitions and I have been published. I have tried to write other forms but in the end I have found I need the rhyme to in order to give myself the rythm when reading allowed. My poetry is very personal so perhaps the emotion comes across but I have never asked my audience their thoughts.

  11. I love writing in rhyme. I’ve tried writing free verse but, to me, IT just sounds forced and false and is not me. I wouldn’t call myself a poet but a teller-of-very-short-stories-that-rhyme. I wouldn’t actually say I even liked “poetry” anyway because most of the stuff being published now is free verse and I always find myself asking, “Why is that a poem?” (And sometimes, what it about?!) I’ve yet to get an answer I really understand other than perhaps, if the person that wrote it says it’s a poem……
    I’ve thought about trying to get some work published but I haven’t found an editor that looks like they would be interested in what I do because it’s too different from the stuff they are publishing.
    I’ve been told often that my work is easy to read and the kind “ordinary” people would enjoy reading. So I’m thinking instead of uploading to YouTub? Clearly, I’m not in it for the money!
    There is a lot of poetry on YouTube, but – again – very little that rhymes. But how else can us ryhming writers reclaim poetry and get poeple interested in it again?

    Most of my efforst are on the long-ish side to post on here but here’s a short one:

    Destiny Denied
    I’m going to lie in long grass with my husband by my side
    On a gorgeous summer’s day. And there I’ll imbibe
    Some life ending substance with a sense of pride
    At outwitting my genetics. Destiny denied.

    Now hopefully that doesn’t come across as forced or childish or greetings card?

  12. One only has to look at some of the rhyming poetry in the comments above to realise that there is a greater skill in writing good rhyme than nearly writing prose with no rhyme. 60 years ago when I was at school it was the case that poetry rhymed and prose did not, since which the distinction appears to have been blurred.

  13. Well..is it wrong if a poem rhymes too much but have good meaning? And if it wont follow any specific schemes or types but rhymes? I always end up like that

  14. O Beech, O Barry, you’ve said it truly.
    Why must modern poetry so confound me?
    In art, in music, there’s no tyranny
    This narrowness rules in poetry only.

  15. I find this quite uplifting – it soothes my inner sore!
    Do so few poets write with rhyme & pace, anymore?
    Is it so hard for some today, to flow out from the core??
    Prose has pose, but not for all – for me, it’s just a bore!

    Why is “free verse” so obscure, with reasons of deep meaning?
    Just what’s wrong with pentameter, and seasoned rhythmic leaning?
    For me, rhyme poems ‘cut it’, with soul-uplifting weaning
    From straight, dark words of misery to wicked, humoured cleaning!

  16. Shakespearian blank verse, a story can create
    Modern verse is worse, it’s used to obfuscate.

    The caption may not fit, with what you write below.
    Let them interpret it, don’t make it apropos.

    Use abstract phrases that, cannot be understood.
    Now add mythic chat, enough to make it good.

    So join me and protest, all you who love to rhyme.
    The poems we love best, can pass the test of time.

  17. I hear a lot about what editors will and will not accept as far as poetry goes. And yet I do not know of any editors who are great published poets.
    If you are, then accept my apology. I just do not know you.
    Why do they (the editors) try to control what is acceptable and what is not? If they do not like poems that rhyme because they think that they are too juvenile-ish, so what? Others may.
    They (the editors again) want someone to write exceedingly well thought out poems that rhyme, following all the established rules of alliteration,assonance,consonance, half rhyme etc. or they will not accept them. That may be depriving the greater public of the joy of reading some very nice poems.
    Granted some rhyming poems are terrible. But who are they (the editors)
    to try and protect us from bad poetry. Instead of setting themselves up as the poetry police, why not let the market place decide. Within limits of course.
    Bad poetry will not sell, good will. Are they (the editors) afraid they may be criticized by their peers? Are they trying to change the whole arena of poetry to only what they find acceptable and enjoy? That would be just a little selfish.
    I do know this. That no one I know reads contemporary poetry. I am not in a position to know if there is a great under swell or demand for free verse poetry. Maybe there is. But it just doesn’t seem so to me.
    Even if there is, why not allow a little rhyming poetry to seep through so that I may enjoy a new poetry book from time to time. Does that, in turn, make me selfish? Maybe. But then again, I am the buying public. Hear my voice.

  18. A central truth about rhyme is that it requires skill to pull it off, and the free verse/rhyme debate is hollow. There are great rhyming modern poems (think of the poetry of Yeats, Frost, Rilke, Auden, and even some of Eliot). There’s a lot of terrible rhyming verse, just as there’s a lot of terrible free verse. It has to do with lack of skill and originality, not with the kind of verse it is.

  19. Back in high school, we were taught that a true rhyming poem also had a fixed (or at least patterned) meter, something you haven’t said anything about in this article. And although I hated it at the time, now I pay more attention to meter than rhyme. (Hey! I think there’s a poem starting here!)

  20. I agree. Too many were submitting horrible rhyming poems I think. It’s much harder to criticize the free verse scribble-dee-do, thus, they take the safe road. In doing this, the companies single-handedly destroyed the market demand for any poetry whatsoever as everything was cynical and cryptic to all beat tarnation with the scribble-dee-dos. Of course the schools and colleges played their parts as well. Why? They don’t care about poetry at all as the world stopped caring. Not to worry. One awesome rhyming poet will set the world aflame, just as Poe did with his The Raven. It sure won’t be a scribble-dee-doer.

  21. Thanks for a great article. About 25 years ago, when I was (cough) extremely young, I had my first article accepted by ‘The Writers’ Voice’, on the topic of rhyming poetry. At that time I felt I was very much a lone voice. I love prosody, and have since read some excellent books on it, including Paul Fussell’s ‘Poetic Metre and Poetic Form’ and Stephen Fry’s ‘The Ode less Travelled’. We do seem – as a culture – to be moving back towards poetry that uses rhyme, and all the other variations of sound and rhythm. I am so so glad of this. As a teenager I used to look at the dry, academic things that were called ‘contemporary poetry’ and just be baffled as to why we had thrown the baby out with the bath water. Thanks for this article.

  22. Thanks for this great little article. I encourage school students to write their own poetry about science, nature & the environment. Having helpful reminders like this can keep us all striving for a new melody within our poetry.

  23. I was a little worried when I first read this article. A poem that I consider a personal masterpiece is quite long and is a rhyming poem. However I felt much better after reading this because it includes much of the rhyming variation discussed here. I have read a lot of rhyming poetry over the past few years that does sound forced or sounds like nursery rhyme. I’m hesitant to make any comments to the author regarding them because I simply don’t like what I’ve read. It’s hard to know what constructive criticism to give when poetry has an almost endless number of rules or is so free as to not have any. Thanks for the helpful article! :^)

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