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
I write both rhyming poetry and free verse. I write rhyme because I enjoy it. I’ve been doing it for years, and I’ve developed an angorithm for generating rhymes — I way predate the internet and the availability of online rhyming dictionaries.
When writing rhyme, word choice is key. My favorite tool is a thesaurus. If I’m stuck for a rhyme, I will look for a synonym.
If I’m writing four-line stanzas, I often rhyme only two lines (the second and the fourth, often) rather than all four. IMO it’s both more flexible and less apt to cloy.
Yes, a lot of the rhymed poems I write are either for kids or are not submitted for publication. They’re out of fashion, but they’re still loads of fun:
There once was a fellow named Mike
who one day decided to bike
down the road with his dog
in a very thick fog.
Now Michael rides only a trike.
What gets me is, in school, we HAD to write rhyming poems, in a definite meter. I hated it. Now, a few decades later, I find many of my poems naturally falling into recognizable meters and rhyming. Quite often I’ll even play word games, not only rhyming the words but creating patterns such as every verse ending with the same words in but in different orders or deliberately using the same word in every verse but with different meanings. And I like the result, and my writing group (including a couple of established poets) likes it, and I start looking at publishers and they’re all saying “no rhyming poetry.” Heck, give them a poem where the last words just happened to end with the same sound (which does not technically make it a rhymed poem) and they reject it as “rhymed”!
I love rhyming poetry. Occasionally, I write free verse, but I love the rise and fall of a rhyme-madrigal tugging at things like summer-heart strings and I love how its ebb and flow is a little like holding on and letting go.. some call it predictable, passe, a crime
but I love the simple, beautiful rhyme!
I lead a writing group and have a few published poets in my group. One is quite accomplished, has been published, and leads poetry writing workshops. Another is a published children’s book author with extraordinary stories in poems for children.
I agree that poetry may be childlike in some cases. But it can also be quite calming to read and very satisfying to write…if you are of a mind to need calming in any form, or at any age. Here’s to rhyming poems. We need to all try it at some time. It’s a challenge and should be required for any writer. There…I’ve said my piece. I’m off of my soapbox.
I think that slant rhyming has become the acceptable way to incorporate rhyming into poetry since it is more subtle when read and more difficult to do. Just my opinion though.
I am a Russian-English bi-lingual, and I grew up steeped in Russian poetry, which is nearly all rhymed and very metered in a fluid, flowing sort of manner — in most genres. English works very differently, but I have a kind of longing for the rhyme when it comes to poetry. It just brings the movement and closure to my lines. What usually happens for me is an interplay of rhymed lines that occur at uneven intervals, so that each line in a poem is rhymed with at least one other line but can be separated from its partner by a distance that’s different every time. The reader is not always completely conscious of this, I think, but the rhyme is there, guiding our perception, focusing attention, rounding out the phrase — like a river’s bend.
I have both prose and poetry published, and I have also seen a bias against rhyming poetry, but I think most editors will give it a chance if you simply submit without caveats or stances, to let the poem speak for itself.
I am a free verse person, simply because I have read so much poor rhyming poetry is has put me off.
I enjoy the freedom that free verse gives me.
I’ve been conducting a very low key test of sorts on several of my friends. (7 to be exact) They are all middle age or older and run the academic gamut from high school grads to a Phd.
During conversations, I’ve asked if they happen to read poetry at all. To a person they said that they do not. Not anymore anyway.
The reasons were varied, but all had an underlying current of tediousness. It was just too difficult to get into today’s poetry and too time consuming for what they got out of it. Also it was plain hard to understand many of today’s poems. They just didn’t have time to try and decipher an agonizing artist’s pain or to attempt to interpret what someone was so euphoric about. Not they way the poems were written. (
their comments). A couple said that they have from time to time looked at books in the poetry section of book stores and leafed through a few. They said that what they read made not much sense and that they couldn’t imagine trying to read more that one or two. So they didn’t waste their money.
But at the same time they remembered fondly the poems they read as children and several even could recite them still. The poems that they were so fond of all rhymed.
I asked who some of their favorite poets were, and all seemed to remember best the poems by Emily Dickinson, Robert Service, Henry Longfellow, Robert Stevenson and William Wordsworth.
Asked if they could name any modern poets, and none could.
So I guess this maybe should be read by publishers and editors and evaluated on the basis that poetry today is no where near as popular as it once was. In my experience anyway. Yours, well, is your own.
And one of the main reasons seems to be the lack of rhyme in modern free verse. I think that the free style poets have just gotten too self serving and write not for the everyday man’s (or woman’s) enjoyment, but for the publishing house editors, with the sole purpose of getting published. They now write poetry that very few everyday people enjoy reading. It seems that older poems just had a tendency to be better understood easily and so enjoyed more. This may seem a harsh criticism but remember, it is only my opinion.
As for myself, when I just want to relax and read something charming, inspirational or just plain fun, I’ll choose one of the older poets and loose myself in their rhyming poems for a while, even though they may bounce along like a hare out for an evening stroll. Rhyme, meter. It does have a place. And I believe poetry is that place. Free style, well…
@ Terry Mason
I also think many modern poems are too hard to understand. IMO poems are a beautiful way of saying a beautiful (or ugly) truth, and the meaning should come clearly through. But now I am getting skeptical as to whether anyone will accept my rhymed and bound poems with clear points.
As an ex ballet dancer and now a teacher, who writes many poems, my life is filled with rhythm. To dance to music that is sometimes soft and romantic or bright and jazzy, you have to use rhythm. Life is a rhythm, the seasons always come in the same order each year. Flowers bloom, trees grow leaves and let them fall, not at random but repeatedly at the same time every year.
Music is not pleasant when it has no rhythm and the passages don’t rhyme. Choreography is sometimes repeated but changes as the steps flow, so it rhymes.
My poems, so far unpublished, all rhyme. I cannot dance without rhythm so therefore I cannot write without it. It is soothing and calming like the waves breaking on the shore. The free poetry sometimes has beautiful words but how more pleasing it would be if it rhymed and flowed.
I’ve been writing rhyme for over almost 30 years; and from the feedback I receive from family and friends, it is well received. The poets I grew up reading and reciting, may have written free verse, but were known for their rhymes. I believe they are what gave me the confidence to try it. I do enjoy reading free verse, but it’s not my particular style. I don’t like sing song poetry and attempt to tell a story in everything I compose. Poems that rhyme may no longer be what the masses want to read, but rhyming comes very natural to me. And since I write for my own enjoyment first and others second, I’ll continue. I, did, however enjoy the article very much.
I may be wrong, but I don’t consider free verse poetry. It is certainly prose, but not poetry.
I have written poetry in several different styles but mostly I stick to writing in rhyme because it’s the poetry form I enjoy writing in the most.