Friday, February 17, 2012

To Rhyme Or Not To Rhyme

Not along ago I joined LinkedIn , one of the  popular social media  sites  to  help  business people network and promote themselves.   I was happily surprised  to find LinkedIn has many  groups   created  for those who write  poems , and enjoy reading poetry.    One question  posed for discussion by   a member of  the group Poetry Editor intrigued me, Is rhyming poetry passe ?

Responses have been many and varied.  One member in favor of rhyming  commented,  I don’t think rhyming poetry is passé at all. There are publications who like what they call ‘crafted’ poetry which includes all sorts of rhyming traditional poetry , plus free verse and post modern styles. The Cortland Review   (  is a publication where rhymes are okay. 

Mary  Saylor, creator of Poetry Editor offers her opinion, For many years, yes, rhyming poems were passé, but poets are not locked into schools of poetic thought as we once were. We’re free to write free verse and free to not !  However, editors of poetry journals, e-zines, and books of poems tire of the poem that bounces to a steady beat and pings with end-line rhyme. By contrast, the poet who studies, practices, and begins to write well in such rhyming forms as a sonnet or villanelle will eventually find a market.

While I agree with Ms. Saylor, I also agree with the fellow who  posted, “ And rhyme can be fun”. 

Think of the famous rhyming poem , Cloony the Clown by  Shel Silverstein

I’ll tell you the story  of Cloony the Clown
Who worked in a circus that came through town.
His shoes were too big and his hat was too small,
But he just wasn’t , just  wasn’t funny at all.
He had a trombone to play loud silly tunes,
He had a green dog and a thousand tunes,
He was floppy and sloppy and skinny and tall,
But he just wasn’t, just wasn’t funny at all.

In Chapter III of  The Complete Rhyming Dictionary  edited by Clement Wood, Rhyme is the identity in sound of an accentuated  vowel in a word, usually the last one accented, and of all consonantal  and vowel sound following it; with a difference in the  sound of the consonant immediately preceding  the accented vowel.

According to the Rhyming Dictionary “Rhyme deals exclusively with  sounds and has nothing to do with spelling. They rhyming dictionary  terminating this book is strictly phonetic and therefore logical and useful. 

Correct rhymes my be spelled alike:
Ate, plate, mate, abate, syncopate.
They may be spelled differently:
Ate, bait, straight, freight.

I asked my mother, a long time lover of poetry about the rhyming question.  She thought for a moment, then said, “When young people first learn about poetry,  and become interested in writing poetry,  it is from their early introduction to rhyming poetry”.   Mom may be onto to something.  I thought of  one of the first poems she read to me when still a toddler at her knee ; Eugene Field’s Little Boy Blue

Little Boy Blue,
Come blow your horn,
The sheep's in the meadow,
The cow's in the corn;
Where is that boy
Who looks after the sheep?
Under the haystack
Fast asleep.
Will you wake him?
Oh no, not I,
For if I do
He will surely cry.

There was something pleasing about  the repetition  of identical or similar concluding syllables  in different words to me then,  as there is now.   Rhyme is  predominately a function of sound  rather than spelling  -  a sound that just makes one  want to  smile.

***  Rhyming poem sites:


Anonymous said...

Your articles always give me something good to think about and a new insight. Thank You
Poetry is so amazing!


Mary Jane Honegger said...

I enjoy writing rhyming poetry, which may be simpler than other types, but you are right, Kathy, what joy those rhymes have given to us all.

I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam I am. I wouldn't not like them in a house I would not like them with a mouse. I do not want them in a box, I do not want them with a fox. I would not like them here or there, I do not want them anywhere. - Dr. Seuss

Jennifer Rova said...

I know little about poetry but learned from this post. My daughters have kept their Shel Silverstein books and now their children enjoy them.