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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Good times to write in rhymes

Steady rhyme and rhythm with no variations usually produce boringly predictably poems with a sing-song beat and end-line ping that sometimes prejudice readers (and other poets!) against rhyming poems of any kind. Nevertheless, rhymes have been popular for many, many centuries, and their echoing sounds continue to expand our options as poets, writers, readers, and people ready to learn.

Repetitive sounds help readers to remember the poems they like. Strong rhymes and a lively beat also help people of all ages to learn, relearn, or retrieve information. Therefore, poems with rhythmic rhymes can be very useful in helping children to learn new information or helping elderly patients and stroke victims to retrieve information and recover memories.

Effective rhymes emphasize thoughts and feelings. If rhymes happen to be key words at the end of the lines, the emphasis increases – again, making a poem easier to recall.

Sometimes poems with regular rhymes and rhythm readily sing their way into song lyrics and hymn ballads.

Poets with a strong sense of musicality – and poets who fret over where to break a line in free verse – may find traditional forms useful to study and liberating to write.

Poets who enjoy writing humorous poetry can often bump up humor with the drum roll of a strong beat and sound of true rhymes. If those rhyming words have three or more syllables, so much the funnier.

Amusing or not, end-line rhymes work best when active verbs and strong nouns add sense to each sentence.

Conversely, end-line rhymes usually do not work well when they consist of abstract concepts or weak words that cannot be pictured such as love/of/above.

End-line rhymes can become problematic, too, when they hinder creativity or the flow of ideas, locking a poet into rhyming words that torture syntax (sentence structure) or thwarting poets from developing their unique voice.

If you like to write in true rhymes but don’t like end-line jingles, enjambment will often soften the sound as you wrap a sentence around one line onto the next.

To vary sound echoes, slant rhyme and alliteration provide interesting substitutes for true rhymes.

For more help with rhymes, see these articles on The Poetry Editor blog:

Rhyme, rhythm, and reality: traditional English verse
Unlocking clockwork rhyme

© 2011, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. Please do not use the above without permission.



  1. I am nothing but amateur....but I find rhyme a discipline that forces careful consideration. it also opens new directions as a possible choice rhyme may offer a new direction for a poem. Thanks for this helpful entry on your blog.

  2. Rhyme often opens interesting twists and new possibilities for me too. Reading all types of poems, studying the masters, and experimenting with forms can quickly turn an amateur into a pro! Best wishes for you and your work.