To Rhyme or Not To Rhyme?


Poetry can take on various roles in writing and equally there are many, many forms but something that often raises a debate is the question of poems that don’t rhyme or Free verse. So should a poem rhyme?

Rossetti was interested in figures locked in e...

Rossetti was interested in figures locked in embrace; cf. the embracing figures at the bottom of the Mystical Nativity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Poetry has existed for centuries and even predates the written word. Poetry, historically has taken the form of epic poems (Homer, Beowulf), political poetry (in the Ancient and the Modern world) and random expressions of thought and emotion.

But should it always rhyme?

The Answer is no. People have a tendency to associate poetry and rhyme because many poems do make use of this effect. Rhythm and meter mimic sounds and there is a big difference between the right rhythm and the wrong one.

Example 1

She walked on a moonlit night in the dark,
through the large, creepy park.

This example uses enjambement which is when the sentence carries on through to the next line but when you read it aloud it feels disjointed. Sometimes the key to resolving this is to play with the words, removing the ones that seem to be causing the problem and sometime reordering them. A lot of this depends on the mood or atmosphere you’re writing about.

Example 2

She walked in the dark,
through the park.

This example is much simpler but read it aloud `in the dark’ and `through the park’ mimic each other. The beat sounds almost like da dum, da da dum, da da dum. If you think about this it sounds almost like someone’s heartbeat quickening or the footsteps of someone rushing to get home. You could play with this to make it slower or faster and the effect would change.

Example 3

She walked, on edge, in the dark.
Through the empty park,
Anxious.

In this one, there are three lines and added beats (on edge, empty, anxious). This adds extra tension and the reason that the third line is only one word is to mimic that sense of fear.

Footprints of feet standing parallel

This view of rhyme as speed is far more flexible than the view of poems as a strict scheme. It allows for more expression and playing with this will do a lot for any new writer’s poetry. Poem’s do not have to rhyme, they just have to convey the message. How this is done is a personal choice. Rhyming schemes can work well in many cases,repetition portraying a sense of what the poem is about, i.e. if it’s a military march or a repetitive task.

Furthermore rhyming schemes can be used in order to be broken. This is always a noticeable and stark technique, the sudden deviation highlighting a change.

This is something I tend to call `falling off the rhyme’ whereby you follow a rhyming scheme for most of the poem and then suddenly not rhyme in the last line. The effect tends to be jarring as the reader is expecting the rhyme by this point.

Example 4

She walked in the dark.
Through the park.
Fearing each shadow,
breathing so shallow.
She’s all alone.
then, a cough!

This is a basic example ofย  using a rhyming scheme but then deliberately breaking it. The effect is very quick in this example and you can experiment with longer poems and shorter poems. Again, this is a personal choice. Just remember that in poetry, there is no right and wrong.

Poetry is about expressing something, not about making sure every line or every other line rhymes and adheres to a scheme. Schemes are great for practise but don’t allow yourself to be too restrained by them as a concept. Similarly if you prefer to rhyme don’t feel that you have to write free verse. What works for you is what works for you, just remember to consider the rhythm when writing poetry.

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5 thoughts on “To Rhyme or Not To Rhyme?

  1. Poetry is the carving of words from the soul; there are no preconditions for writing a poetry. I don’t know whether there are some laws or principles to be followed in poetry, well if there are any, I will never follow them.
    Poetry holds sanctity and it must not be altered with unnecessarily. It must be expressed in the way the poet’s heart wants to express it. That is what I believe.
    Well, I definitely liked your post. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks very much! I absolutely agree. I’m a big fan of free verse personally as I do feel it’s more expressive and don’t like the limitations of rhyme schemes and such. Writing from your heart and with truth is more important by far. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. One of the reasons why I find writing free verse more appealing than songwriting is that I don’t have to rhyme. At the beginning it was a new found freedom for me and it still is. I do have great respect for poets who do rhyme and have something to say.

  3. Pingback: A Breath And A Poem « Poems That Dance

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