Poetry essay: Rhyming in poetry

The first poetry you may have encountered as a child might have been rhyming poetry.  Something like:

Look at the dog play,
he runs and romps all day,
he turns in every way,
oh look at the dog play.

Poetry like this can be approachable, sound simple, “sound like poetry”, and the regular sound of the rhyme makes it easy to say.  Because of this, this type of poetry can be used to introduce poetry to children.

You may have also read poetry from the previous time periods like those of the 19th century.  Some of these poems have rhyme, but the subjects, form, and style can be more complex than what is above.

In incorporating rhyme into your own poetry there are a number of things to consider.

Rhyming pattern

One of the first things to consider is what pattern the rhyme will take.  One familiar pattern might be ABCB, where every even line rhymes.  There are also other simple patterns like ABBA and ABCA.

Although a rhyming pattern can be simple, it can also be complex.  A poet could have a pattern that works across stanzas and has a number of rhyming components to it.  The more complex the pattern though, the less noticeable the rhymes might be.  If the pattern was complex enough, and the poem long enough, a reader might not even notice there was a pattern.

Poetry tone

Rhyme imparts a tone to poetry.  Sometimes it can sound simplistic.  It can also sound melodic.  It could even be humorous.  These characteristics work well with poems where the subject fits that.

In a more serious poem though, rhyme might seem inappropriate.  A poem about poverty might not sound right with a rhyming pattern.  It could work though if the poem was meant to sound satirical or if the rhyme was meant to impart a song like quality to idea.

The idea here is that rhyme changes the tone of a poem, and a poet should consider that when considering it for a poem.

Mixing with other elements

Rhyme can be mixed with other elements.  One choice that can work well is meter.  A regular beat with rhyme in a discernible pattern can add a predictable quality to the sound of a poem, and make it easy for a person to read, recite, and remember.

Rhyme can also be mixed with other elements as well.  Some examples include an acrostic poem with rhyme, a stanza structure with rhyme, and word count with rhyme.

The difficulty with rhyming

Rhyming can sometimes be easy.  Think of a word like “gold”.  There are a number of words that rhyme with it.  Some include: bold, cold, fold, hold, mold, old, polled, rolled, sold, and told.

Other words though can be difficult to find rhymes for.  For example, what rhymes with “mountain”?  One word is “fountain”.  Other words though might be harder to find.

A poet should keep this in mind for two reasons.

First, if a poet uses a word in a rhyming position that is hard to rhyme with, this can make the poem more difficult for the poet to write.  This can especially be the case, if the poet is going to have multiple words rhyme with the base word.

Second, the words that rhyme with a word can influence the meaning of a poem.  Using the example of the word “mountain”, if a poet had this word in a rhyming position in their poem, it would affect the poem.  If the poet had to use “fountain” as the rhyme for the word, this would influence the meaning of their poem.  Since a poet would have to make the two words work together, it would change what they write.

Where are the rhymes?

Although it might be common to have rhymes at the end of lines, as has been seen in experimental poetry forms on this blog, they don’t have to be there.  There are a number of alternatives.  For example, the first word of each line might rhyme.  Or, there could be rhyming words on offset lines.  There could also be rhymes within lines.  There are number of things a poet could experiment with.