Rhyming Poetry - Debbie Guzzi's Blog

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Deborah Guzzi writes fulltime. When not writing she’s reading. She travels for inspiration. Her new book The Hurricane is available now through Prolific Press. Her poetry appears in: Existere - Journal of Arts and Literature in Canada, Tincture in Australia, Cha: Asian Literary Review, Hong Kong, China, Eunoia in Singapore, Vine Leaves Literary Journal in Greece, and Ribbons: Tanka Society of America’s Journal, Sounding Review, Kyso Flash, The Aurorean, Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, Liquid Imagination, Concis, The Tishman Review, Page & Spine and others in the USA. 

Rhyming Poetry

Blog Posted:6/21/2013 3:02:00 PM

I have to tell you [I know I have mentioned it before ] RHYME is out of favor.

IF you need to do rhyme, poems/love'>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:

- frantic
- pedantic
- quantic
- gigantic

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:

- clinic
- carnic
- ammonic

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:

- returned
- burned
- churned
- batted

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:

- wonder
- thunder
- under
- batter
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!


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Date: 6/23/2013 4:43:00 PM
i love rhymes.. i love how it sounds and the way it is mix and match.. trues, its hard to make a poem which rhymes as each words must be carefully chosen and be used in a way that each is important and such that absence of one word is a lost in the poem's essence.. each important word is remarkable... rhymes gives a poem a light and lyrical approach.. as poems once and until now a source of songs.. each rhymes brings out color and jive to the readers.. as it is catching both to ears and eyes.. :) the guidelines and suggestions are true.. :) thanks much..
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Date: 6/23/2013 1:34:00 PM
I have an easy formula to gauge the average age of a poetry site. If one can figure out the percentage of rhyming poems being posted, this will give the average age of the site's members. For instance, with a site such as poetrysoup.com, there are 50+% rhyming poems posted, which means the average age of its members is 50+. Seriously, this formula works very well. I've tried it on other poetry sites, and it gives the average age within an accuracy of about 2 - 3 years, give or take. One poetry site with which I tried this formula on, has an average member-age of 25 years-old....and the posts do reflect the age very much. And vice versa. Oh, and this formula incorporates the bell-curve when younger people do write in rhyme(if there is an average of 50% rhyme posts one, day, but 70% on another, use the lower-end average of 50% rhyme posts, to estimate the average age of site members).
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Date: 6/22/2013 7:17:00 AM
Lovely to hear from you John is all well?
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Date: 6/22/2013 1:29:00 AM
As you say Debbie in your last para it is all about how it sounds,no matter what the structure of our prose it only lives when recited aloud..Rgds Brian
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Date: 6/22/2013 12:58:00 AM
PS....one more thing! I did a course on Shakespeare on His Contemporaries....what do you think of John Donne? I love "Death be not Proud"....OH!!! What beauty that is! Biblically sound as well! I can recite it..that's how much I love it. Having lost my Mama, it does speak to me. Then there is the "Flea"...seriously? What a contrast! "To His Mistress"....I'm rambling...sorry! :) Just wondering....Loved that course...It wasn't studying...it was steeping oneself in pure delight!
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Dietrich Avatar
Andrea Dietrich
Date: 6/22/2013 7:55:00 AM
wow, I'm glad someone here knows about John donne. He was one of my favorites I studied in college.
Date: 6/22/2013 12:50:00 AM
DEBBIE!!!! What a great article to share. After reading this I can surely say that I'm a novice at writing poetry....boo hoo. I do agree with Cyndi in that we read up, glean what we can but take care not to get so bogged down that the inspirations goes up in a poof! But what do I know? I'm a simpleton when it comes to all this! I just write what my gut tells me and hope it strikes a responding chord. So guilty of using contractions and "just" and "real" as fillers. On the upside, I always encourage my students to use strong verbs instead of the ho hum ones like said..walked. Thanks for this blog. I love to learn. Please, help me when you can as you did with that sonnet suggestion! :) Hugs!
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Manassian Avatar
Eileen Manassian
Date: 6/22/2013 7:24:00 AM
:) Amen to that...both should have equal weight! :) Hugs!
Guzzi Avatar
Debbie Guzzi
Date: 6/22/2013 7:16:00 AM
Yup, yup for me the emotional content is most important! I was at a CT Poetry Society meeting with a real anal retentive OCD type ex-English teacher that kept really knit picking the EXACT word choice, I almost gave myself a migraine grinding my teeth.
Guzzi Avatar
Debbie Guzzi
Date: 6/22/2013 7:16:00 AM
LOL and for him the hmm [remember when we had to break sentences into a diagram /noun/verb/ preposition phrases/ modifiers? yike] he got all into that for a line in a verse and felt IT was more important than the emotion. FINALLY, I said maybe BOTH should have equal weight?
Manassian Avatar
Eileen Manassian
Date: 6/22/2013 12:52:00 AM
Inspiration....typo...I KNOW it is a non-count noun!!!!! GRRRRRR
Date: 6/21/2013 11:05:00 PM
Thank you Debbie, so very informative if only I remember it all when I need it .....Seren
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Guzzi Avatar
Debbie Guzzi
Date: 6/22/2013 7:10:00 AM
doesn't hurt to print it out & take a gander at it after you have finished your first pass at the verse.
Date: 6/21/2013 9:33:00 PM
If iamb....if sounds that match/ could cure the pain/imposed upon/our wretched lives/I'd gladly swill/ a beacon filled/beyond the fear/that grips two feet...
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Date: 6/21/2013 8:52:00 PM
Dear Emily Dickenson, Madame you have sent us the following: A bird came down the walk:// He did not know I saw;// He bit an angle-worm in halves// And ate the fellow, raw.//// And then he drank a dew// From a convenient grass,// And then hopped sidewise to the wall// To let a beetle pass.///// He glanced with rapid eyes// That hurried all ABROAD,--//They looked like frightened beads, I thought;// He stirred his velvet HEAD//// Like one in danger; cautious,// I offered him a CRUMB,// And he unrolled his feathers// And rowed him softer HOME// ///// Than oars divide the ocean,// Too silver for a SEAM,// Or butterflies, off banks of noon,// Leap, splashless, as they SWIM. ///// This is not rhyme and if you continue to rhyme this way, we fail to see how you will ever be published. BAH BAH BAH and HUMBUG! My advice is for those who choose to rhyme using a sophisticated approach of near rhyme and slant rhyme to find other markets. Do not let a magazine dictate your style, not ever! There is some solid advice here, one I can't applaud enough: FORCING RHYME. Yup, that first example? Had me cracking up! and then trying to keep EXACT syllable count for each line, when a perfect word would be cast aside simply to appease a rule that NO recognized poet has ever kept in its entirety? BAH again. What I did like that the editor said: every word counts. Yup. And the lines should make sense, there should be flow, direction, MEANING (whether veiled or not) I've been reading some mags here in Canada, some that publish rhyme and they'd don't follow this tired, archaic approach. I know I'm not Emily. But guess what? I never will be if I don't trust my instincts, allow the piece to dictate its tone and totality. I think the problem is this editor has "just" seen to much crap, cliché, redundancy and cookie cutter styling and as a result he has become ... cookie cutter him/herself. When it comes to editors, one will contradict another. I say read the advice, ponder what is meaningful to you, what rings as true and sound, and "flush" the rest away. READ READ READ... and never stop reading!!! Still, Sis, glad you shared this. There is a lot that is good, here. Love ya... hmm... will try to find example of what I found in Quill.
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Guzzi Avatar
Debbie Guzzi
Date: 6/22/2013 7:09:00 AM
OMG Dee it will take me all afternoon to reply to YOU LOL..yes..everything taken with a grain of salt [to me that means you add your own spice!]
MacMillan Avatar
Cyndi MacMillan
Date: 6/21/2013 9:59:00 PM
"Poetry is all about having matching sounds." Okay, now does anyone else want to barf??? LOL... even if I wrote what this guy wanted, forced myself into that "girdle", I'm not sure I could look myself in the mirror after the fact! AWK AWK AND TRIPLE AWK!
MacMillan Avatar
Cyndi MacMillan
Date: 6/21/2013 9:51:00 PM
ONE MORE>>>> BET, READ THIS... oh, this is the way I love to write! Man, I may rework September, only slightly, and continue to poesy along.. oh, so GOOD... mmmm... http://www.contemporaryverse2.ca/en/poetry/excerpt/how-the-starling-came-to-america-a-glosa-for-p.k.-page
MacMillan Avatar
Cyndi MacMillan
Date: 6/21/2013 9:45:00 PM
http://www.contemporaryverse2.ca/en/poetry/excerpt/cat-scratch-fever I am hoping this uber cool mag (I've thumbed it at Chapters --which you know as Indigo) takes submissions from Americans. It's a mighty tasty journal. xox
MacMillan Avatar
Cyndi MacMillan
Date: 6/21/2013 9:26:00 PM
Take a look. See? Published rhyme. http://www.contemporaryverse2.ca/en/poetry/excerpt/hospital-vespers ... new kid on the block! :D
Date: 6/21/2013 7:54:00 PM
I am one of those guilty of writing rhyme. I would like to know who wrote this also. I do not agree that clinic, carnic and ammonic are good rhymes. That little clic sound at the end doesn't do it for me. And no one here would be guilty of trying to rhyme bough and rough. Rhyme will be back. What does carnic mean? It's not in my Oxford Dictionary.Joyce
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Guzzi Avatar
Debbie Guzzi
Date: 6/22/2013 7:06:00 AM
I will come across it again as I submit things Joyce and make a point this time of writing down HER name. I DO think the [ic] is enough. I haven't seen as bad a match as bough and rough either ;)
Date: 6/21/2013 7:27:00 PM
Yes, I stand guilty of the occasional "just" or "and" as filler, but the other things mentioned here I try hard to abide by. I think enjambment is another very useful tool to be able to keep going from one line to another and not just have to end with a sloppy word choice. Forced rhyme is horrible and seeing 'twas and 'pon and 'gainst just really rubs me the wrong way. I used to spend up to six hours to polish up one sonnet. But probably some of my poems could still use a going through!!!
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Date: 6/21/2013 6:50:00 PM
Me to Craig but it isn't easy to write metered poetry without the filler words and she didn't addressed the fact that most rhymed poetry is supposed to be metered. Most of the rhymed verse here uses ONLY end rhyme.
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Date: 6/21/2013 5:01:00 PM
Very helpful. Thank you..I do a lot rhyme..all the time...lol. BG
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Date: 6/21/2013 4:15:00 PM
Thanks for sharing this, Debbie. I love writing in rhyme and the info in this piece is informative.
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Haunted Orb Haikufantasy,nature
This Night Sonnet 
Tombstones & Teacups Rhymeallegory,childhood,death,
Today Not Tomorrow Free versededication,depression,gir
Years Of The Rose Free verselost love,loveday,
The Joy that Sweetly Stays Free verse 
Cinder Girl Rhyme 
Biography (Thesis Statement) Versehistory,life,philosophyli
Figure Fusion Verseart,sports
Dancing Bird - with video link Free verseanimals,introspection,nat
Poem for a sensuous poet Free versefantasy,on writing and wo
The Road Walked Down Through the Years Rhymelife,on writing and words
The Iceman Cometh! Rhymenostalgia
He says/ She says Narrativelife
I've seen so many Sonnetintrospectionnight,night,
Searching for Michelangelo Free verseart,hope,life,people,imag
Indifference Free verse 
realisation of self (War Child) Free verseme,me,
Reporting Live On The Soup (Colorado) Rhymefunnyme,me,
Late at night Lyricimaginationme,fear,me,
Reverencing Nature Balladfaith,naturenature,heart,
Dreams Coupletimagination
Simple Pleasures Rhymehappinesssummer,summer,
I Exist Pantoumintrospectionlife,me,
Madrid: Circa 1974 Blank versenostalgia,travel,
Magnolia Song Free verselove,romance,
yellow bus roars through Haikuallegory,nature,places
Ethel's Remedies Rhymefunny,people
A Dream In The Mist Narrativefantasy,imagination,natur
volga 1 - 3 Prose Poetryfantasy
Mama's Cleaning Quatrainintrospection,life,mother
WAKING HEART'S VEINS Free verseangst,hope,
Revelation Free verseimagination,lifesong,epic
Sports Limerick Limerickfunny
The Snowflake Italian Sonnetromance,
Jack Lyricintrospectionlife,
The Ghost That Travels Far Personificationnature
Kite Flying - Test Free verseallegory,art,imagination,
Dining with Crow Rhymeanimals
Beauty, yes Sijohope,imagination,philosop
Smart and Final Prose Prose Poetrypeoplepeople,red,city,peo
Tiger in the Sea Rispettoadventure,animals,seame,t
A Song of Michael's Rose Narrativeme,
Where my True Love Lives - A Ballade Balladedeath,love,ocean,
Into Morning Free verselife
Play Me A Teardrop Rhymelost loveme,me,

Fav Poets

Carolyn Devonshire United States Flag United States Read
Carrie Richards United States Flag United States Read
Deirdre Omaidin Ireland Flag Ireland Read
Andrew Crisci United States Flag United States Read
Jim Fish United States Flag United States Read
Nigel Fawcett Italy Flag Italy Read
L'nass Shango United States Flag United States Read
Andrea Dietrich United States Flag United States Read
Robert L. Hinshaw United States Flag United States Read
Chris D. Aechtner Canada Flag Canada Read
nette onclaud Philippines Flag Philippines Read
Sidney Beck Russian Federation Flag Russian Federation Read
Sami Al-khalili Canada Flag Canada Read
Charlotte Jade Puddifoot United Kingdom Flag United Kingdom Read
Cyndi MacMillan Canada Flag Canada Read
T Wignesan France Flag France Read
Elaine George Canada Flag Canada Read
sharon Winter United States Flag United States Read
Michael Smith United States Flag United States Read
jack horne United Kingdom Flag United Kingdom Read
Paul Callus Malta Flag Malta Read
Charmaine Chircop Malta Flag Malta Read
James Marshall Goff United States Flag United States Read
Joann Grisetti United States Flag United States Read
Ravindra K Kapoor India Flag India Read
Olive Eloisa Guillermo - Fraser Philippines Flag Philippines Read
kathryn collins United States Flag United States Read
Teppo Gren Finland Flag Finland Read
Michael Jordan United States Flag United States Read