I have to tell you [I know I have mentioned it before ] RHYME is out of favor.
IF you need to do rhyme, love to do rhyme and you want to be published you better
dern well know how to do RHYME WELL! Below is an editors advice on RHYME. I've been judging contests on this site for over 10 years and I must admit most of what I read which uses RHYME is so simple, so common. The info below will help you polish your game in RHYME. Believe me I'm guilty TOO and I didn't write what is below, I wish I would have noted which Magazines editor wrote this [fret] BUT it's wonderful advice!
Word Choice in Rhyming Poems
Once you start to get the rhyme down smoothly, you run into the problem of word choice. When a poet is struggling with a rhyming poem and trying to get it to work out, they begin to stick "random words" into various spots to get the syllables to fall into the right spots. The words clearly do not belong there, and they stick out like sore thumbs. So you end up with something like this:
It just is wrong this way things are
To just hang out beside the house
I wish I had a real fast car
To drive away with my friend mouse!
It's fairly clear that using the word "just" over and over again was done as a "cheat" - a way to get the poem to work. So was the word "real" before "fast car". It was something stuck into the poem to try to fix a problem. However, instead of this being a finished, polished granite sculpture of a horse, it's more like seeing a lovely sculpture that has a giant pink Band-Aid stuck on its nose. It jars the reader from the experience of the poem.
Try to avoid all of those "filler" words like just, most, very. Avoid tossing in "ands" and "ors" to fill in the spots.
[GUILTY..me...guilty as charged and her I go thinking I'm so smart!]
Don't resort to cheats like cutting off pieces of words, using 'gainst instead of against, using 'twas instead of "it was", just to get the meter to fit.
Gently deconstruct what you've done, and reconstruct it to be more waterproof,
to have a correct layering of words and images that fit naturally.
You want every word in your poem to feel as if it's important, and that it conveys a rich vision of the world you're presenting. Imagine you read a poem that said a girl was "dressed in pink" - is that a snuggly flannel nightgown? Is it a lacy party dress? Is it a ballerina outfit with pink tights and a white t-shirt? We want to see your vision! Don't settle for the cliché, simple words like "walked" and "said" and "saw". Did she stride angrily? Did she stroll contentedly? Did she twirl with delight? Let us know what your vision is!
Make Sure It Rhymes
This would seem to be the most simple part of a rhyming poem, but sometimes it gets lost in the process. A rhyme is about the last sound in each line of a poem. You don't have to make the entire three syllable word rhyme. You only focus on that last sound. Sounds can be hard and soft. So let's say the end of one line is the word "Atlantic". The end of that word is a hard sound, TIC. You would then want to rhyme that with words like:
When you read those aloud, you hear the sharp T sound, a hard sound, which ends each word.
If we take another word which is similar, panic, this has a NIC as its ending sound. N is a soft letter. Words that end with NIC have a softer, different feel to them, because of course N is different from T. So words that would
rhyme with panic would include:
When you create your rhyming matches, focus on the ending sound of the words. Make sure you find rhymes that match that ending sound properly.
In the poem
Ellipsis by Kathleen Brand, she rhymes "returned" and "burned". This works wonderfully because the "RNED" is a soft matching sound in both words. But she couldn't match those words with "batted" just because
batted had an "ED" at the end. The sound of "RNED" is quite different from the sound of "TED". Look at these words as a series, and read them aloud:
See how "batted" stands out as not sounding the same? It's because it doesn't have the same sound-feel at the end of the word. "RNED" is different than "TED".
Here's an example of Open Lies by Armond, Richards. He rhymes "wonder" with "thunder" and "under". This is a great way to see how words can look slightly different and sound exactly the same. It's the sound we care
about in poetry. Sound is all important. So again, read these aloud:
While "batter" might end in ER, it has a very different sound because "NDER" is soft while "TER" is hard. You need to match the sounds.
Here's a famous example of creating the same sound with different letters. This is a stanza from a poem by Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken".
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same
If you just looked at this visually, without reading it, you might wonder where the rhyming words were. "Fair" ends with "AIR". "Wear" ends with "EAR". "There" ends with "ERE". They're all different! Plus "AIM" and "AME" don't match either. But then read the stanza aloud. Listen to the sounds of the words. The sounds match exactly. That's what poetry is all about. It's about those sounds.
Let's look at the opposite situation. This is a made-up poem to provide an example.
I sailed out boldly into rough
waters, but my boat capsized.
I clung with fear to oak-tree bough
and mourned the ship I once had prized.
On first glance it might seem the words at lines A and C rhyme. After all, both end in "ough" letters. Isn't that enough? However, when you read them aloud, you realize that the first word, "rough", has an "UFF" sound to it. The second word, "bough", has an "WOW" sound to it. Poetry is all about having matching sounds. In this case the two sounds don't match, so it isn't a rhyme.
Let us know if you have any questions about rhymes!