The Use Of Rhyme In Poetry

Airen Wolf Airen Wolf
Using a rhyme scheme in a poem can add flavor, to create ambiance, and to elicit a specific emotion. Done well it can be like adding a touch of spice to a wonderful recipe but done poorly it can become campy and forgettable.
Traditional forms of poetry such as sonnets, limericks, or odes use rhyming schemes in specific, and often rigid, patterns. Even if you are writing a freer more non-traditional poem you can use rhyme to add flavor and drama to your piece.
To be effective the rhyme should be pleasing to the ear and lend a “melody” to your work. It can also be jarring and discordant to show chaotic thoughts or elicit these types of emotions. Well rhymed poems are easy to memorize since the brain often categorizes unique combinations of words easier making retrieval sometimes spontaneous. This is why we can hear songs once, but remember the chorus for decades after!
Effective rhyme can deepen meaning by connecting the words in the reader’s mind. It’s like adding neon signs to your work. It can also strengthen the form of the poem by emphasizing ends of lines (stanzas). This makes both reading and listening to the poem spoken aloud easy to follow.

Internal and End Rhyme
End Rhyme- This is the most common and easily recognized scheme. In this scheme the last word of the line rhymes with the last word of a following line. The lines do not have to be arranged in rhyming couplets but they should show meter. This scheme defines the ends of thoughts or ideas.
Internal Rhyme- This is fairly common in lyrical poems and sounds pleasant to the ear. In this scheme, words in the middle of a line rhyme with each other.
An example of end and internal rhyme can be illustrated by The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Here is an excerpt to illustrate these two schemes:
The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.


True Rhyme and Off Rhyme
True Rhyme- When words are exactly rhyming they are considered “true”. For example: Fall/ball, pencil/stencil, crust/lust…you get the idea! These are words that sound like exact matches to the ear.
Off (or Slant) Rhyme- When words sound similar but aren’t quite exact they are off or slant rhymes. Part of the word is exact but not all of it. There are two common categories of slant rhyme:
*Assonance- in this category the vowel sounds of the two words are similar when spoken. They may not exactly match. Some examples are: Seethe, lean, beat….all with a long “e” sound. You could even add “sing” to the previous group even though it is not an exact match to the long “e” sound. The element of the long “e” sound is present. Vowel sounds are said with the breath and are softer sounding than consonant sounds.
*Consonance- in this category the consonant sounds are similar. These are the “harder sounds” made by the lips and tongue. Usually the rhyming consonants are at the end of the word: Steer/Lair/Clear . Notice that the only thing that binds these words is the ending “r”.
If the first consonants are the ones who are the same then it’s called alliteration.

Slant rhyming can give more word choice and actually allows for more creative and original poems. Of course, it can also become a tired and over used rhyming scheme. Consider how many times “heart” and “apart” are used in love poems. Sometimes it can be good to use common “true” rhyming sets of words and sometimes you need to mix it up. It really depends on what sort of feelings you are trying to elicit from your audience. Often a slant rhyme can be softer and create a subtle effect. Removing the predictability of true rhyme can make your work more interesting and actually increase the feelings of freedom and flow.

Rhyming Schemes
When we illustrate rhyme scheme we use the letters of the alphabet. The first set of rhymes is marked with an “a”; the second set is marked with a “b” and so on. So,for example, a poem with a rhyme scheme denoted abab, the first line and third line end with a rhyming couplet and so do the second and fourth. If, however, we denote a poem abcb, then the first and third sentences do not end with rhyming words but the second and fourth do. Most of us can recognize an abab poem easily but we actually seem to prefer the abcb type scheme. We begin to look for the rhyme and the poem takes on a special quality. The purring of an abab poem makes us feel relaxed and it is often used in love poems.

Rhyming schemes might have many letter denoting rhyming stops or ends to sentences. What binds these types of poems is the way the rhymes seem to dance in and then out, pleasing the ear and creating the emotional response the writer desires.
Learning to effectively use rhyme to illustrate poems is a skill very worth pursuing. A good thesaurus and dictionary will be your very best friend.
09/24/2012
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