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Tuesday Tips: To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

I’ll be honest with you: I like rhyme. It’s fun, challenging, and can make

a poem easier to remember. After all, some very famous and beloved

poems have been written in rhyme—think “Annabel Lee” and “Stopping

by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” That being said, it can be a tough sell

to get rhyming poems published in today’s market.

Why? Some consider rhyme to be too cutesy or even trite; some dismiss

it as “greeting card verse.” Now, I like greeting cards, and many of them

have lovely messages, rhyming or not. But I know what the critics mean.

It’s easy for rhyme to seem contrived. The poem’s meter, or rhythm,

may be off. Words might seem to have been chosen simply because

they rhyme, not because they best express the poem’s meaning.

Even more important, in my opinion, the writer may have used rhyme

not because of intentional choice, but out of habit, almost a built-in

assumption that rhyme is the “default” mode for poetry.

Rhyme is many things: it can be pleasing music, a dance, a structure—

and it is a tool. If used, rhyme should serve the poem. Other way around,

the poem seems to struggle against a “we’ll make it fit” approach.

Poetic language is what makes a poem. Let’s put work into improving

our poetic skills, like imagery, immediacy, getting to the heart of the

matter. These are what will strengthen and enhance our writing, whether

we choose to rhyme or not.

These tips may be geared more toward poets, but we also welcome submissions

from writers of nonfiction and from artists, including photographers.

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