OK, here’s one for all of you poets out there. To rhyme or not to rhyme, that is the question. For hundreds and hundreds of years, poets wrote poems that rhymed. But then, in the last century or so, poets began writing a different kind of poetry. It was called free verse and it pretty much got rid of the technique of using words that rhymed at the end of the poetic line. Nowadays, rhymed poetry is the exception, not the rule. The reason for this is probably that rhymed poetry is now considered a much more formal, even stuffy way of writing poetry. Often, to make a rhyme at the end of a line, you have to change the word order. The rhymes will work, but the word order may sound strange. The line of poetry doesn’t sound like anything anyone would ever say. Here’s an example:
“For on thy cheeks the glow is spread
That tints thy morning hills with red;
Thy step, -the deer’s rustling feet
Within thy woods are not more fleet;–William Cullen Bryant, “America”
Nowadays, poets who use rhyme, and use it well, write rhyming poetry that is very natural-sounding. Sometimes when you are reading rhymed poetry that is very well written, you won’t even realize that each end line rhymes. That’s because there is so much interesting content within the line or within the structure of the poem that the rhyme becomes merely a lovely addition to the poem, not the sole reason for it. Here’s an example of recent rhymed poetry which flows very naturally without a convolution, or twisting of the language:
… first rubythroat
in the fading lilacs, alyssum in bloom,
a honeybee bumbling in the bleeding heart
on my gelding’s grave while beetles swarm
him underground. Wet feet, wet cuffs,
little flecks of buttercup on my sneaker toes,
bluets, violets crowding out the tufts
of rich new grass the horses nose…-Maxine Kumin, “Whereof the Gift is Small”

You may also notice in the first few lines of the poem, the use of off-rhyme, or words that sound alike, but don’t rhyme perfectly “throat” and “heart”, “bloom” and “swarm”. While poets don’t use rhyme in poetry as frequently as they used to, they do use lots of other techniques to make their poetry rich. We have already talked about similes, and seen how similes can be used to make poetry richer. Here’s another great example of a poetic use of simile:
A road comes up to my face and stands like a mirror
showing everything that has led me to it: a bed
soft like bruised fruit, a whole lime garden bruised
by the afternoon shade, and his book’s hard spine
breaking with the day.
-Valzhyna Mort “Island”
Join me next week, and we will talk about some of the other techniques that poets can use to enrich their poetry. Until then, I wish you richer writing.