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What we are about to say could get us in a lot of hot water, but there’s just no way to sugarcoat it: Rhyming poetry that’s not done right can be kind of annoying.
Many editors of today’s literary journals tend to eschew rhyme—and it’s hard to blame them! For some reason, bad rhyming poetry tends to be more offensive to editors than bad free verse poetry. Many writers have even given up writing rhyme because it’s not very marketable.
That said, if your heart is in rhyme, then you should follow your muse. The trick is to be certain that your poetry is good—and more importantly, that it is good enough to overcome the stigma regarding rhyming verse.
Good rhyming poetry is out there. It’s difficult to do well but not impossible.
Here Are A Few Tips That Will Help You Write Strong Rhyming Poetry
Read good rhyming poetry. If your idea to write rhyming poetry came from standing in the aisle of a greeting card store, then it may be time to examine rhyming poems that have a more literary reputation. Once you find a favorite poet who uses rhyme, the next step is to study the work. What do you love about it? How is the poet making his or her particular music? Study conscientiously and passionately—then apply the lessons to your own writing craft.
Skip the singsong style. If the style of your poem sounds like it could have come directly from a children’s book or could work as a mnemonic device, then you may want to consider how you can approach rhyme with a more complex (and impressive) technique.
Rhyme comes second. Choosing the right word to make your point is more important than choosing a rhyming word that doesn’t make the point so perfectly. Word choice matters.
In order to convince skeptical modern readers to love your rhymes, you’ll need to demonstrate that the rhyming word and the right word are the exact same thing—so that meaning is in perfect lockstep with meter in your poem.
Don’t oversimplify your rhymes. If you look at poetry from the “old days” when almost all poems rhymed, you’ll see that many authors created complex poems that would have “worked” even if they didn’t rhyme at all. Rhyming cat, bat, and hat is fantastic if you’re writing to share poetry with children, but adults are looking for something more.
For instance, the rhyme does not necessarily have to come at the end of every line. Learn more about internal rhyme, as well as alliteration, assonance, and other techniques of poetic verse.
Pop Quiz! Why Are You Writing Rhyming Poetry?
If your reason for rhyming is simply that it sounds nice, there is absolutely nothing “wrong” with that. Your poetry is your poetry—and no one can or should tell you what to do. Poets who rhyme—and rhyme well—are a rare and valuable breed of writer. Rhyming poetry does seem to be a dying art. And writers who are keeping it alive are absolutely worthy of as much respect as writers who choose other forms.
Just keep in mind that contemporary readers and editors tend to want the form of a poem to support the meaning. In other words, if your poem doesn’t need to rhyme to make its point, some editors might say the rhyme is a contrivance that doesn’t need to be there at all. You’ll need to convince them.
Of course, as a poet who is in charge of your own writing, you can make the argument that your rhyme has a point. Sometimes a poet’s reason for rhyming is obvious: Perhaps the poet wants to evoke a sense of childhood, or a sense of something old or liturgical. Sometimes a poet’s reason for rhyming is not so obvious—and that’s okay too, as long as the reason is there.
Ultimately, the choice is yours. And as long as you know what you’re doing and what you want to do, that’s the most important thing. Just be aware that rhyming poetry has to be exceptionally dazzling to find a place in the pages of many literary magazines.
Photo by vbecker