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Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: talia (
Date: May 08, 2003 12:48PM

As beginning poet, I always rhymed. To me, that was what made a poem a poem, however, I soon began it limited me to express things unless I forced rhymes and therefore, causing my poems to become "cheap". So now I only find myself rhyming by accident. When looking at submission guidelines of literary magazine almost all of them prefer non-rhyming poems. However, a few generations ago, there was no such thing, yet, the great poets then (Edna St.Vincent Millay, etc) were wonderful!

What do you think about that?

Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: marian2 (
Date: May 08, 2003 02:17PM

The rhymed stuff we have left from past ages is usually very good because the bad stuff got junked when printing was expensive or because folk didn't keep it ie time filtered out the rubbish. Good rhymed poetry is easier to remember, so lasts well and is popular. but, like you say, forced rhyme irritates easily. Also there are a finite number of rhymes, so often they become cliches - think of love songs - moon, June, swoon etc

Non rhyming poetry, especially if it doesn't scan, irritates traditionalists and is sometimes seen as a bit of a cop out, like some 'primitive' forms of art. The implication being folk don't rhyme because they can't. Non-rhymed is fashionable among the literate, but more ordinary folk tend to like the rhyming stuff.

I think there's room for all sorts and I like vast amounts of different stuff, (and dislike even more). I think there was a long and fairly strong discussion about this a few months ago, don't know if it's still accessible.

Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: Marian-NYC (
Date: May 08, 2003 02:57PM

Rhythm and rhyme definitely SATISFY something a human being. Imagery and metaphor and wonderful phrases also satisfy something in us, but not exactly the same thing.

It's been shown that there is a specific part of the human brain that is active when we're involved with rhymed-and-metered stuff (verse, song) and is NOT active when we're dealing with prose and non-metered poetry.

I don't know what you'd find out if you could create a timeline showing, for a lot of different cultures, when they started producing song with and without rhyme and meter, poetry with and without rhyme and meter, etc. MAYBE you'd see some universal progressions; maybe you'd just see trends in literary FORM the way you see trends in fashion.

I just wrote "form" because it struck me as I wrote that it's not just what we call "rhyme" and "meter" that you'd have to look at. BEOWULF is written in a very strict form. There is meter, not rhyme. And there is also alliteration -- there's a sort of theme consonant for each mini-stanza.

In a very technical study of design, it has been shown that when cultures meet and share technology, language, etc., they also share DESIGN ELEMENTS. There's a book called "Patterns of Culture" that shows this in mathematical detail -- e.g., the pottery of one group is decorated in simple symmetrical designs until they meet another group that's been doing "rotational" designs (pinwheel) and after that the first group starts doing rotational symmetry.

So I'm guessing you'd see similar patterns of transmission in the FORMS used in song and poetry when cultures meet. But once English Language Poetry came to exist as such ... I have no idea what you'd see if you could map the development of sub-forms such as blank verse. Probably someone has written about it.

Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: Pam Adams (---)
Date: May 08, 2003 03:00PM

We've gone round and round on this subject many times- I'm with marian2 and like both, but with a tendency to prefer rhyme.

One problem with unrhymed is the 'how do you know it's a poem' question. I think that it's probably easier to set a meter with rhymed work. In a lot of modern, unrhymed work, I don't see a reason for the line breaks- they seem to be at random.


Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: talia (
Date: May 08, 2003 04:08PM

I always think of line breaks when I think of what words I want to emphasize in the following line when writing a unrhymed poem. I guess after reading Marion-NYC's post, that I prefer to write and read unrhymed because it seems a little more "free". I like to use a thesaurus when I right and I don't like to read unecessary words which can happen in rhymes.

Really though, I hate math! Meters, and precise syllable counts, etc.....forget it!!

Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: Pam Adams (---)
Date: May 08, 2003 05:08PM

Now, now- iambic pentameter is actually the number of syllables that can be said easily on one breath. The stressed/unstressed mirrors our heartbeat.


Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: Smokey (
Date: May 08, 2003 07:55PM

In a little quotation dictionary I find
"Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down" Robert Frost.
I remembered this quote because I am one who prefers rhyme.

Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: May 08, 2003 08:52PM

But did he play the game even so? Or is this one somehow metric? Doesn't rhyme, I mean:

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down. I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'

Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: Pam Adams (---)
Date: May 08, 2003 09:39PM

Seems basically iambic pentameter.


Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: Chesil (
Date: May 09, 2003 06:09PM

Part of the problem is exactly as you mention. So many poets that want to write in rhyme do so rather painfully. They force words and know nothing of meter. Hardly surprising that poetry editors get tired of reading them. They also tend to be predominantly in the firendship or inspirational mode but rather than making it new, as Ezra Pound exhorted, they use tired and well worn phrasings.

Sadly, this then means that poets who make carefully crafted poems in rhyme find fewer outlets for their work.

There is also the MFA effect. Few creative writing courses have any emphasis on rhymed poetry. This then multiplies the effect. There was a very interesting article a couple of issues back in Poet & Writer about the impact of most professional poets now also being English Professors or the product of an MFA in creative writing. I suspect the point was overmade but there does seem to be a kernel of truth in it.

I blame Eliot!

Of course, there has been wonderful unrhymed poetry down the centuries. Milton's Paradise Lost and Regained, Shakespeare's blank verse oratories, Coleridge's Conversation Poems.

Pound was right, the trick is to make it new. I picked up a book of poetry by Ted Hughes today. Not a rhyme in it, but the images and craft in the use of words do set it very far apart from prose.

Where I have trouble is the prose poem that really never feels like a poem because the imagery and use of words don't make it feel any different from any other piece of prose.

Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: KD (
Date: May 09, 2003 11:48PM

As an amature writer of poetry, I write as the words strike me. Usually though, they do not rhyme. I am writing trying to get a point or feeling across; however, sometimes these points or feelings just lend themselves to rhyme. Known as "the simplistic one". I go with whatever feels right.

Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: Les (
Date: May 09, 2003 11:48PM

Chesil, I believe I agree with you. Although, I'm neither an accomplished poet, nor a prolific craftsman, what poetry I have written falls into both categories. I, too, feel that non-rhymed poetry must be more than just prose. I'm especially unimpressed by objective dialogues, written in prose form, without consideration for choosing the correct word that might bring forth an emotional, or at least a sensory response from the reader.

For me writing rhyming poems, especially metrically exact rhyming poems, is much more difficult than writing free verse. But free verse, I think, should not be merely "talking on paper". It is, after all, still an art to make the words say exactly what you wish to convey in any poem.


Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: marian2 (
Date: May 10, 2003 05:24AM

This turned into a really fascinating discussion. Can someone tell me what MFA stands for, please. I'd love to read the Poet and Writer article - anyone know what issue it was in?

Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: Jack (
Date: May 10, 2003 09:15AM

Master of Fine Arts degree.

I have a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts)
My wife calls it a BFD (Big F@%&ing Deal) because it never brought a penny into our house!


Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: Chesil (
Date: May 10, 2003 12:53PM

Master of Fine Arts. The article was two issues ago, which must havebeen the January/February issue. I don't see it on their website, but I may have missed it:


Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: May 10, 2003 02:58PM

Searching the site for MFA turned up The Professionalization of Poetry by David Alpaugh, but they did not have the article online.

How about this one, for an example of RLF writing free verse?:

Poets Are Born Not Made

My nose is out of joint
For my father-in-letters --
My father mind you --
Has been brought to bed of another poet,
And I am not nine months old.
It is twins this time
And they came into the world prodigiously united in wedlock.
(Don't try to visualize this.)
Already they have written their first poems in vers libre
And sold it within twenty-four hours.
My father-in-letters was the affluent American buyer --
There was no one to bid against him.
The merit of the poems is the new convention
That definitely locates an emotion in the belly,
Instead of scientifically in the viscera at large,
Or mid-Victorianly in the heart.
It voices a desire to grin
With the grin of a beast mores scared than frightened
For why?
Because it is a cinch that twins so well born
will be able to sell almost anything they write.
-- Robert Frost (1913)

Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: Elle (
Date: May 10, 2003 06:41PM

Some poems are better when rhymed, others are better in free verse. It all depends on the poet's preference. For instance, "The Road Not Taken" would sound different if it was not rhymed.

Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: May 11, 2003 08:39PM

Good point. First of all, the author must have something important to tell me, that I don't already know. Then, he has to convince me he knows what he is talking about, before he can expect me to pay any attention to it. Failing that, I might still listen, if he says it in an interesting way, or puts another slant on something everyone takes for granted.

See if you can tell the author of this one by the sounds:

I am a Mede and Persian
In my acceptance of harsh laws laid down for me
When you said I could not read
When you said I looked old
When you said I was slow of wit
I knew that you only meant
That you could read
That you looked young
That you were nimble of wit
But I took your words at their face value
I accepted your words like an encyclical letter
It did not matter
At worst they were good medicine
I made my stand elsewhere

I did not ask you to unsay them.
I was willing to take anything you said from you
If I might be permitted to hug the illusion
That you liked my poetry
And liked it for the right reason.

You reviewed me,
And I was not sure --
I was afraid it was not artistically done.
I decided I couldn't use it to impress my friends
Much less my enemies.
But in as much as it was praise I was grateful
For praise I do love.

I suspected though that in praising me
You were not concerned so much with my desert
As with your power
That you praised me arbitrarily
And took credit to yourself
In demonstrating that you could thrust anything upon the world
Were it never so humble
And bid your will avouch it

And here we come close to what I demanded of you
I did not want the money that you were disbursing
among your favorites
for two American Editors.
Not that.
All I asked was that you should hold to one thing
That you considered me a poet.
That was why I clung to you
As one clings to a group of insincere friends
For fear they shall turn their thoughts against him the
moment he is out of hearing.
The truth is I was afraid of you

(Nope, no period, but I have no reason to think it unintentional.)

Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: Dave (---)
Date: May 20, 2003 07:39PM

I have heard it said that poetry is words in their proper order. If it does rhyme that is great, if it doesn't that is great too. The whole idea is expression.
I am a songwriter also, so I prefer to rhyme and make the words fit into little box that can become a song. Some may say that is a limitation but I disagree.
Trying to fit the words into a rhythm and making them rhyme is a challenge. It makes me write more creatively. Sometimes it makes me say thing I didn't know I wanted to say.

Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: Pam Adams (---)
Date: May 20, 2003 09:55PM

>Sometimes it makes me say thing I didn't know I wanted to say.

Nice! If you dig far enough into the archives, (watch out for spiders!) you'll find discussions of poetry versus songs as well.


Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: rikki (
Date: May 21, 2003 02:51AM

This reminds me of a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes -
"When you write in prose you say what you mean. When you write in rhyme you say what you must."
A while ago I wrote some poems for a children's fantasy book - to the publisher's strict requirements of length, rhyme etc, and found it both challenging and satisfying. I guess it was a similar creative attempt to make words 'fit into a little box' but without the added dimension of music.
And I remember hearing an interview with poet/singer Nick Cave who also said that songwriting makes him say things he didn't know he wanted to say - and that once he gets started, the hardest thing for him is being able to finish a song because there are just so many stories to tell.

rikkismiling smiley

Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: Alexandra Kilpatrick (
Date: May 21, 2003 04:34PM

Alright, slightly off on a tangent, but I always take great pleasure in rhyme when I read poems translated from the original language - I find translated poems have an enhanced dimension because they are essentially recrafted. This one is by Shushanig Gourghenian, and would have originally been in Armenian, the translation is by Diana Der Hovanessian and my regret is that I have no Armenian, so can't tell how true it is, nonetheless it is a favourite:


I wanted to welcome you
into my soul like a god,
lost and road weary
to hear you calling this

I wanted to restrict
the nightingale to but one
garden. And keep his free
songs for me

I wanted you jailed
in my breast as part
of the flow of my blood,
the sway of my

I wanted when I died
my name to be carved
on that hardest of monuments
your heart of

Has anyone ever tried to translate poetry?

Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: Dave (---)
Date: May 24, 2003 09:23AM

Thank you Pam.

Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: Dave (---)
Date: May 24, 2003 09:24AM

Thank you very much Rikki. I appreciate that information.

Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: September 27, 2005 04:08AM


Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: drpeternsz (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 28, 2005 07:00PM

I find trying to think about the differences between poetry and prose make me think about the prose-like qualities in my poems when I am writing them, which is, for me, terribly counter-productive. It makes me want to stop writing.


Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 28, 2005 10:59PM

Dogs don't know it's not bacon

Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: Desi (Moderator)
Date: September 29, 2005 04:35AM

You don't think they'd smell it?

Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 29, 2005 09:45AM

of course they smell it, but it doesn't matter to them, they only care if they like it or not

Re: Rhyming vs. Not Rhyming
Posted by: ns (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 30, 2005 03:00AM

"I am a Mede and Persian
In my acceptance of harsh laws laid down for me"


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