Poetic Fundamentals: Rhyming

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t know at least one rhyme be it one they heard recently or one which floats around at the back of their mind from their formative years. Rhymes can be catchy, fun, and for centuries, they’ve been employed as a clever way of helping people learn. Poetry is obviously no stranger to rhyming, either, where most children’s first examples of poetry are introduced as nursery rhymes. Did you know, though, that rhyming isn’t always as simple as children’s poems?

Rhyming at its Simplest
Before we delve into different methods of rhyming, first we should ensure that the basic definition is understood. A rhyme is a sound which corresponds to and otherwise matches the sound of another word: sometimes words rhyme because their endings are spelled the same. Make, cake, slake, and rake are examples of words which rhyme because of their common spelling, “ake.” Sometimes, though, rhyming words are spelled differently – make and break, for example. While they don’t necessarily share the “ake” ending, they both make the same sound, so they are considered rhyming words. Easy, right?

Rhymes for the Journeyman
Unfortunately poetry isn’t always so rudimentary, but thankfully, our minds are infinitely capable of working around the rules. As you write, you will inevitably come across words which are near rhymes even if they’re not perfect. These words often have similar sounds even if they’re not 100% identical. Make and maid could easily be used as near rhymes, because they’re both short, they utilize alliteration (the repetition of identical consonant sounds), and their stressed syllable sounds similar, as well. Near rhymes can be tricky to use in poetry, though: too many can be distracting, and words that are too unique can throw off the flow of your work, so use them in moderation.

Advanced Rhyming
What about those words which, for all intents and purposes, just don’t rhyme with anything? Orange, purple, film, and toilet are examples of words which don’t rhyme with any other English words; they’re called refractory rhymes, and you can easily find an entire list of them online. These words usually don’t rhyme with others because of their spelling or unusual pronunciation, but it may interest you to know, that even they can be used in rhyming poetry – if you know how to do it.

The most common type of rhyme is called an end rhyme, so called because lines in end rhyme poetry rhyme at the end – usually the last syllable or two.

I found my love on ocean floating;
E’er since then have I been doting
on her ev’ry time we’re boating.

Obviously, refractory rhymes don’t work so great in end rhyme poetry, though, because – here again – they don’t rhyme with any other words. Maybe off-centered rhyme poetry is the trick! Off-centered rhyme poetry is another term for spoken word poetry, and it’s one of the most versatile types of rhyme, because it doesn’t have to rely on the rules of meter and rhythm in order to work. Words can be broken up into their syllables and made to rhyme with other words that way. Reading it may be a little confusing, but check out the example below.

In the orchard
I walk,
Talk-
ing to the trees
Both apple and or-
ange
Along with the bees
wish-ing

for more
Delic-ious-ness
kissing my lips,
Making a mess.

Because off-centered rhyming allows the writer to break up words as they see fit, you see how orange can be broken down into its smaller parts – “or” and “ange.” From there, rhyming or is a simple task, and ange can be used in the next line without requiring a rhyming counterpart.

Here’s the Catch
Just like all the lessons you’ll see from me, the all-important factor that can make or break your poetry is patience. Rhyming is no simple task, and when you combine that difficulty with meter and rhythm, poetry only becomes more complicated. The more familiar you become with the language in which you’re writing, the easier rhyming will become for you, but familiarity only comes through time and experience: don’t rush yourself!

It’s also incredibly important to note, that not all poetry is meant to be written. The off-centered rhyme above, for example, will never appear in my collections of written works, because it’s too confusing to read. Knowing when to write and when to speak, what to rhyme and what to tweak: these are just a couple marks of a skilled poet.


Samuel Blake ǀ @herheart_oncraft
Her Heart Poetry’s ON CRAFT area will be evolving over the coming months. Samuel’s goal is to both educate and inspire readers and writers of all calibres. ON CRAFT articles will be published to teach about a different facet of creative writing.

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