Monday, March 12, 2012

To Rhyme Or Not To Rhyme?

That certainly is the question so many poets toy with when they first begin to write poetry. They have the words inside that want to come out, but they're not sure of the best way to go with their words.

Many poets, including well published ones, tend to write rhyming poetry, other well published poets may never write rhyming poetry. So, as a new poet, which way should you go? The question can tie your head up in knots, so you never get any poetic words on the page at all.

The answer though is simple. Write the words down first, play with them until they shimmer and shine and can bring to the mind of the reader of your poem what you want to show them. This can be an image that struck you, a person you know, an experience you wish to share and a million other things. Then give your words to the world and let others tell you whether they can see what you wanted to show them.

You can do this in a strict poetic form, such as a sonnet or villanelle, or you can do it with the free-est free verse ever. The important thing is to get the words down and polish them until they do their work.

If you end up writing free verse, be prepared to listen to the doubters, who will never agree to free verse being poetry, rather than cut short prose. These people are wrong. That's all there is to it, they are wrong. Poetry is not prose. In prose, the words are put down on the page, one after another until you run out of room for that line and start the next. With poetry, you carefully consider where the line best ends, which word goes best with which other word, and how the whole thing looks, and feels on the page.

There have been many fine writers who have written further on this subject. I'm not going to write much more, except to say this - for me, the poem tells me whether it will be a rhyming poem, or free verse. The poem knows.


Carolyn Cordon said...

Thank you to the people who have voted so far!

TimT said...

Sometimes the poem can be lying to you though. :) I voted!

Carolyn Cordon said...

Thanks Tim, appreciate you visiting, I'll come visit your blog now!

Poems don't lie to you, you may just not understand them properly. Listen properly to the words, the words are the truth!

john malone said...

a well argued piece, Carolyn; in every poetry course I have ever taught this topic comes up.

My own response is if the lines that come from your head come out all 'rhymy' then you rhyme; if not, then free verse

Carolyn Cordon said...

Thank you John, I firmly believe in letting the poem have its head in these matters, in the beginning.

Once the words are down though, that's when that nasty critic in your head can turn into your best friend. I have rarely written a fantastic poem first time up, my best poems are all good poems made so much better with editing.

I've seen many first drafts of poems, from both adults and children that showed promise, but ...

Second drafts helped to hone the poem, bringing out the promised wonders, and making a good poem, a great poem. To anyone who doesn't believe in editing your work, I say, come on, give it a go, you'll be amazed at how great you can be.

Drafts are like the delicate chipping away of a chunk of granite, or piece of wood, that a sculptor uses to find the shape they can see, that's waiting to get out and be seen by all, not only the sculptor.

john malone said...

eloquently put < carolyn; I certainly advocate drafting so long as you retain the energy of the original inspiration

Carolyn Cordon said...

I try to keep my first draft copy of my writing. That way I still have the first words that came to me when I have an idea for a piece of creative writing. That way, I can find the spark again if I edited the spark to blandness.

Well, that's the way it's supposed to go, and so far it's worked that way for me.