Writing Poetry: To Rhyme or Not To Rhyme?
It’s National Poetry Month, and to help all you poets out there, we’re throwing out some poetry tips each week throughout the month of April to help get your creative poetry juices flowing!
This week we will be discussing one of the most common elements of poetry: rhyming. Poetry is usually associated with rhyme, though a poem does not necessarily have to rhyme. There are many formats a poet can use that do not all include rhyming, but if you are partial to this technique, here is an overview of the most common types of rhyme.
End rhyme poems are perhaps what most people think of when picturing a rhyming poem. This technique uses a rhyming scheme that rhymes words at the end of the line. Some common examples include:
Stanzas in the poem are four lines long, and the first and third lines rhyme (represented by the “A”) while the second and fourth lines rhyme (represented by the “B”). An example of this kind of poem would be:
Out of the night that covers me
Black as the pit from pole to pole
I thank whatever gods may be
For my Unconquerable soul.
Similarly, another pattern rhymes the first and second lines while the third and fourth lines rhyme. An example of this format would be:
The tree that never had to fight
For sun and sky and air and light
But stood out in the open plain
And always got its share of rain.
Internal rhyme differs from end rhyme in that it will rhyme words within a single line of poetry. This is a more difficult technique than end rhyme and requires consistent timing. An example of this can be seen in Edgar Allan Poe’s famous piece “The Raven:”
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”
The rhyme is not used in each line, but enough to keep the reader’s attention. Poe also switches rhyming sounds as the poem progresses. There is no exact structure to this scheme, unlike the end rhyme, but nonetheless it is a fun one to try.
Perhaps one of the most difficult forms of rhyming in poetry, slant rhyme rhymes words that share only similar sounds, not exacts sounds. It is a vague form of rhyming that allows for more creativity in word choice often constricted in end rhyme. An example is Emily Dickinson’s “Hope Is A Thing With Feathers,” in which she imperfectly rhymes the words “soul” and “all.”
Hope is a thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all….
The Key Takeaway
Whichever rhyme choice you decide to use in your poem, stick with it all the way through, even if there is no rhyme. Consistency is key in poetry, as once you start a rhyming scheme, your reader will expect it for the rest of the poem.