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Thursday, December 12, 2019

Prime Time for Rhyme

Rhymes have the best success when they accentuate the meaning, theme, or purpose of a poem.

Since the repetition of a sound naturally calls attention to it, this can be a useful technique to highlight an important thought or image. Otherwise, the emphasis of rhyme can be distracting – like pointing to an empty doorway and saying, "Ta DA!" when nothing is there.

If you once thought, as I did, that a poem wasn't a poem unless it rhymed, you may have found yourself being faithful to the rhyming pattern rather than the poem’s meaning. However, rhyme for the sake of rhyme can make a line seem odd, awkward or strained, so it's better to omit rhymes altogether than to force the syntax into an unnatural-sounding sentence.

In general, the weakest rhymes use the weakest words to create the weakest pictures.  For example, a preposition, adjective, or adverb can not be envisioned.  Except for providing a senseless sound, nothing is gained by pairing a rhyme with “of,” “for,” “the,” or other abstract word.

Conversely, the opposite is true:  Strong nouns and verbs offer the strongest rhymes, create the clearest pictures, and give the greatest strength and emphasis  to a poem’s meaning, theme, and purpose as I hope this poem will show: 


The cardinals convene the color of the day.
Robed in red, they pronounce a benediction
over cawing crow and squawking jay –
an ecumenical procession of beak and plume.

Two tiny titmice, cowled like monks,
begin to chant, and a pair of mourning doves
peck flat wafer seeds from green chunks
of ground, keeping time to some hymnal tune.

A brown thrasher thrashes in a purifying pool,
and into this God-given school of earth and sky –
on my most mid weak day – I
come to be quiet and commune.

by Mary Harwell Sayler from the poetry book Lost in Faith

Note: The above post primarily came from the Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry e-book.

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