I’ve decided to focus my lesson this week on the pros and cons of rhyme in poetry. One of the things I discovered, as I read the poems submitted this past week for Featured Poem of the Week, was that almost every one of them was “overwhelmed” by rhyme.
Trying to make every line rhyme leads the poet, the poem, and the reader astray. While rhyme does serve a very meaningful purpose in poetry, over-using it, leaves the reader disoriented and untouched by the meaning and message of the poem. We come away thinking and rethinking about the rhymes.
Example: I walked along the river on a sunny
summer day watched the birds
play in the trees with every errant
breeze that teased the leaves and
tempted the bees to sip the flowers
as the hours slipped away.
That is what I would call a RHYME RIOT, rhyme for the sake of rhyme, not for the integrity of the poem. What you want, when writing your poem is a balance, a gentle “melody” of rhyme that adds a musical component to the poem and helps us remember what we read. This works in poetry, much the same way as it works in music and song, the rhyme is a handle our memory can hold on to, inviting us back into the words and their meaning. What the poet is looking to create is a lovely balance between rhyme and the reason the poem was written in the first place.
Still I RISE
By Maya Angelou
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
This extraordinary poem by Maya Angelou (Still I Rise) uses rhyme to enhance the meaning and value of the poem. The rhyme is there, we hear it, we feel it but, it does not overtake the meaning and message of the poem. It simply gives us a melodious road to travel on as Maya Angelou take us to the destination, she has created by writing the poem.