Monday, July 31, 2017

Every poem doesn’t have to rhyme!

When I first began writing poems, they inevitably rhymed and bounced to their own rhythm. Most poets can probably say the same, and that’s fine! Rhythmic and rhyming lines work wonderfully well for humorous verse, nursery rhymes, and greeting card verse.

If, however, you want your poems to have a literary tone or quality, you and your rhymes may need to break up for a while! You won’t be saying goodbye forever, but when you return to rhyming, you’ll have a purpose and appropriate form.

Since haiku has been perennially popular for centuries, it makes a good place to start weaning yourself from rhymes. The brevity of its three lines and picturesque scenes from nature provide an excellent exercise in areas far more important to poetry than rhyme, for example:

• Being concise (aka “writing tight.”)

• Being highly observant (i.e., noticing – really noticing what you see and sense.)

• Using fresh comparisons of This with That (to SHOW, rather than TELL.)

To make a clean break with rhyme, consider writing prose poems, which focus on insights, thoughts, feelings, or even a mini-story, rather than rhyme.

Also, consider writing free verse, which relies heavily on the way in which you arrange and rearrange your line breaks.

As long as your free verse stays FREE of any pattern, including a rhyme scheme), the poems might scatter rhymes internally, rather than end-line, but they’re more apt to use sound echoes – word pairs that echo off of one another, creating audial interest.

Once you’ve spent some time with these alternatives to rhyme, learn how to scan a poem, which is much easier than it sounded in high school! (You can do it!)

Then, you have the tools you need to write rhyming poetry in such traditional patterns as the sonnet and villanelle. Writing in these classical forms not only gives you a strong sense of satisfaction in your work, it can elevate your level of poetry-writing into literary realms. There, you’ll be more apt to find poetry journals and anthologies waiting for your poems to fill their hungry pages.

Mary Harwell Sayler
, ©2017, poet-author of Living in the Nature Poem, Outside Eden, Beach Songs & Wood Chimes (for children), Faces in a Crowd, PRAISE! and Kindle e-books on poetry