To Rhyme Or Not To Rhyme
by Anthony Keith Whitehead
That is a question asked by many beginners in writing poetry. What is the answer? Like all good answers it begins: "It depends".
"It depends" on your own judgment. This is the first criterion. Every aspiring poet needs to be able to answer this part of
the question for themselves. And it is difficult to give precise advise.
Ask yourself: what kind of a poem is it that I am going to write?
What effect am I trying to create in the mind of a reader? will rhyming tend to add to that effect or detract from it?
These are the kinds of questions which the poet needs to ask. At least in the early stages they are not so easy to answer. So
look at poems other people have written - other well-established poets or poets with accepted reputations as being in some sense (and there lies a whole host of other questions!) a
Who is a good poet depends on opinion - and opinions change. So part of your answer will depend on fashion. Rhyming is less fashionable now than at some times in the past. Which is not at all
to say one should not rhyme. The situation is not at all that in using
certain words which are held to be archaic, such as thee, thou, thine/I etc. There is still much rhyming poetry. But beware
of "hard" and obvious rhyming: i the cat sat on the mat type. If people can guess what is coming the effect is ruined.
Sometimes, some would say far too often, we allow fashion to be dictated to us. But we also contribute to fashion - and there are fashions in poetry as in most things. We tend to buy what we like and what we buy contributes to present fashion.
Hence if we are not too discerning, we help to create a fashion which has a questionable foundation.
Consequently, when you buy poetry books or journals, don't always get what you currently like,
or you will never allow yourself the opportunity to like something else!
Read as widely as you can. Both poets from past generations but also, in some senses even more importantly because you are writing for people
living now, from the present generation. Certainly, some will seem
always to rhyme, others never to stop. But, for each poem, ask yourself: why did the writer chose to write the poem in that particular
way? Equally important, ask yourself: would the poem have been stronger if written
in a different way?
You may not like much of what you read. But the main thing is to learn from what you dislike as much as from what you do like. And don't be a slave to fashion created by someone else. Create your own - but build it
on firm criteria. Critical reading is really the only way you will develop that
If You Decide Not To Rhyme
Rhyme and reason are linked. There is a purpose in using rhyme. It is simply a technique for achieving a desired effect. But when rhyme is not used, the effect has to come from something else. That
can be much more difficult to achieve.
So if you are at a beginning stage, you may wish to stick with rhyming until you have developed some expertise. That will come if you
are always asking yourself why other have done that and why you have done this.
If You Decide To Rhyme
If you decide that rhyming would be appropriate to a particular poem, and that it would add to the overall effect you are seeking to achieve (or if it is a quite short poem, even to the final line or two), then you
need to decide on the rhyming structure.
This concerns which lines are to rhyme with which. How often is rhyming to occur? There are (at least) two be carefuls here.
Be careful not to make the rhyming too heavy - using rather obvious rhymes. This is especially important if you are using a aa structure where
consecutive lines are rhymed. But also be careful not to get too sophisticated and put the rhymes so far apart that their effect is lost.
A abab structure is quite common where alternative lines rhyme: the a's and the b's. Or abcabc can be used, but now the rhyming is getting quite spread: the fourth line with the first, fifth with the second and so forth. It is probably not wise to go beyond this as the rhyming is
in danger of loosing itself.
But other alternatives are possible. Try abba, or abcc. Try rhyming some lines but not others. If * represents unrhymed lines, one might try a**a, or ab**ab or whatever. Experiment. But in the finished poem the combination should always have a reason for being used.
If you always know what it is, you are on the way to becoming a poet - as opposed to someone who just writes verses.
About The Author
A K Whitehead
Web Site: http:// www.christianword.co.uk
The author has been writing poetry for many years and has had over 600 poems published worldwide in journals and magazines, besides several collections of poems.
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