I know I’ve discussed this in lessons before, but I really believe it is something that should be addressed again. The subject of today’s lesson is “The Art of the Rhyme” and I might add that too much rhyme in a poem is a commitment of a “poetry crime!”
While I truly do understand one’s fascination with rhyme, I also understand that when the poem is written in a way that forces each line to rhyme with the next, the poem loses its integrity. It is no longer a poem but rather, an exercise in finding words that rhyme, forgetting about meaning, rhythm, flow, and most of all, exhibiting the honesty that poetry requires.
There are a variety of different kinds of rhyme that one can use when writing a poem:
Rhyming of the final words of lines in a poem. The following, for example, is from Seamus Heaney’s “Digging” :
Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground
Rhyming of two words within the same line of poetry. The following, for example, is from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” :
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
Slant Rhymes (sometimes called imperfect, partial, near, oblique, off etc.)
Rhyme in which two words share just a vowel sound (assonance – e.g. “heart” and “star”) or in which they share just a consonant sound (consonance – e.g. “milk” and “walk”). Slant rhyme is a technique perhaps more in tune with the uncertainties of the modern age than strong rhyme. The following example is also from Seamus Heaney’s “Digging” :
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun
Rhyme using two different words that happen to sound the same (i.e. homonyms) – for example “raise” and “raze”. The following example – a triple rich rhyme – is from Thomas Hood’s” A First Attempt in Rhyme” :
Partake the fire divine that burns,
In Milton, Pope, and Scottish Burns,
Who sang his native braes and burns.
Rhyme on words that look the same but which are actually pronounced differently – for example “bough” and “rough”. The opening four lines of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, for example, go :
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Here, “temperate” and “date” look as though they rhyme, but few readers would pronounce “temperate” so that they did. Beware that pronunciations can drift over time and that rhymes can end up as eye rhymes when they were originally full (and vice versa).
Simply using the same word twice. An example is in (some versions of) Emily Dickinson’s “Because I Could not Stop for Death” :
We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground—
The Roof was scarcely visible—
The Cornice—in the Ground—
*(Credit to Simon Kewin – “Types of Rhyme” – Daily Writing Tips – Google)
And these are not, by any means, all the types of rhyme one could use. There are, at least, ten different types of rhyme employed in the writing of poetry: Perfect rhyme, Near rhyme, Couplets, Quatrains, Anaphora, Assonance or Assonant rhyme, Alliteration, End rhyme, Identical rhyme, Eye rhyme, Rich rhyme.
I encourage you to allow yourself to feel the poem, internalize the message and meaning of the poem, allow the poem to flow without restricting it by placing the importance of the rhyme over the beauty of the language, the flow of the lines, and ultimately, the emotional impact you hope your poem will have.
Please remember, there is an art to rhyme in poetry but, too much rhyme and you’ve committed a rhyming crime!