To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme

Years ago when I first started to write poetry I was of the opinion, I think most people who are not poets believe this, that poetry had to rhyme. My creative writing teacher in high school would give us assignments where the second line had to rhyme with the fourth line and so on. It was easy enough to do and I thought I wrote some good stuff. It wasn’t until I took a class in college that I learned poetry does not need to rhyme at all. Most of the poets that I was exposed to in this class were ones that I had never heard of before. Li-Young Lee, Stanley Kunits, Naomi Shihab Nye and others wrote such beautiful poems that didn’t necessarily rhyme. I went back over some of my older work and tried to redo them with out forcing rhymes. It made a world of difference. What I found was that when you force a rhyme you are not always able to use the right word. It some instances it is perfect to rhyme, in others, at least in my case, it took the poem in a direction that I didn’t really want it to go, but I had to get that word that rhymed with time. There are only so many choices when you do this.
The second lesson I learned was that I used too many words. I asked my professor to critique some of my work. She tore them apart. “Too many words” she said. She explained that there is a difference between saying “she glowed like the sun” and she glowed like sun” (OK not a great example but you get the idea). Taking the work “the” out of the line allows the reader to put themselves into the poem. We all know what THE sun looks like, but if you say simply “sun” then it can be so much more. You do need to be careful and not just take out all the little words or you will get nonsense. Try going back over some old stuff that just doesn’t work for you and, if you rhyme, try them without rhyming. Take out some of the extra words that aren’t needed and see what happens. For me it made some older poems come back to life. I redid those poems I had the professor critique, she like them after that. As a matter of fact one of them even placed in the poetry contest at the college.


2 thoughts on “To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme

  1. Pingback: The Poet Alludes Me At Times « Escaping the Inkwell

  2. Pingback: Into the Fold of the Strange « The Chronic Vacacionista

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