Saturday, 11 December 1999

Rhyme

Advantages

  1. It sounds better
  2. Sound has a strong, innate effect.
  3. Artists need a restriction to fight against. "Poetry without rhyme is like tennis without a net" - Frost
  4. Rhyme can be built into a poem without detrimentally affecting other aspects of the poem.
  5. It can be used to emphasise words or connections.
  6. It binds a poem together.

Disadvantages

  1. It sounds worse - sing-song, jangly, childish. J. Jerome in a writers' guide says that "much of your effort in rhyming is to subdue it" by spreading the rhymes out, avoiding rare words, using enjambment, etc. Why bother in the first place? Even the experts can't please everyone: Kay Ryan's poetry has been described as "too rhyme-driven"; Frederick Seidel "even makes his admirers nervous ... unexpected, bathetic, clanging end-rhymes that critics have compared to those of Dr Seuss"
  2. Rhyme is the most superficial of sound effects. The English language isn't well suited to rhyme.
  3. Poetry writing's difficult enough without imposing contrived restrictions. Why not make the net higher and write rhyming acrostics? Besides, one should be able to adapt to different net heights - badminton has a higher net than tennis; squash has no net at all!
  4. Any sacrifice of meaning for the sake of sound is a loss. In practise, adding rhyme means sacrificing something else. (During the second half of the eighteenth century, commentators began to question whether Pope was a poet at all and to suggest that he was a clever versifier who put prose into rhyming couplets and lacked the imaginative power required of true poetry. So beware!)
  5. Rhyme makes connections that may have no semantic justification. It makes flaws in acoustic technique stand out more.
  6. Rhyme can bind together amorphous collections of lines.

Types

True rhyme ("the first sound of the last stressed syllables are different, all subsequent sounds are the same" - Jerome), pararhyme, internal rhyme, feminine rhymes, etc.

In The Yale Review, V79, N2 (p.210), Mary Jo Salter suggested "Accordian Rhyme" for the effect in "Sandpiper" by Elizabeth Bishop

The word is a mist. And then the world is
minute and vast and clear.
.......................
The millions of grains are black, white, tan and gray,
mixed with quartz grains, rose and amethyst

Modern Exponents

Far more common in UK than the US. See Tony Harrison, Larkin, Geoffery Hill, James Fenton, Paul Groves, Wendy Cope, Peter Abbs, etc.

References

  • "this poem doesn't rhyme", G. Benson (ed), Viking, 1990. (a collection for children)
  • "Rhythmic Phrasing in English Verse", R.D. Cureton, Longman, 1992. (the physiological effects of sound)
  • "The New Freedom of Rhyme", Peter Dale (in Outposts 168 (1991)). (8 different kinds of rhyme)
  • "A Defence of Ryme", Samuel Daniel, 1603.
  • "Rhyme's Reason", J. Hollander, Yale University Press, 1989. (uses of rhyme)
  • "Vision and Resonance", J. Hollander, Yale University Press, 1985. (more uses of rhyme)
  • "The Poet's Handbook", Judson Jerome, Writers Digest Books, 1980. (how to write poetry)
  • "Rhythm and Rhyme", R. Tamplin, Open University Press, 1993. (examples of the use of rhyme)
  • "The Art of the Rhyme", BJ Pendlebury, Chatto & Windus, 1971.
  • "An Introduction to Rhyme", Peter Dale, Agenda/Bellew, 1998 (much more thorough than Pendlebury - 12 functions are demonstrated. The section entitled 'The Attack against Rhyme' could have been strengthened though).
  • "The Keats heuristic: Rhyme and reason in aphorism interpretation", McGlone, Tofighbakhsh, Poetics. May 1999, V26:4, p.235 (rhyming makes aphorisms seem truer)
  • Why rhyme pleases by Simon Jarvis (Thinking Verse I (2011), 17-43.)

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