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Should Poems Rhyme?

Updated on March 16, 2012

This hub is written to answer the question: "Does a good poem require rhyme?"

I've seen several people discuss whether a poem should rhyme or not. Many people seem to misunderstand the role of rhyme in poetry. Asking if a poem should rhyme or not does not provide enough information to answer that question, yet so many ask this question or similar questions.

Whether or not a poem should rhyme depends largely on the form of the poem. Some poetic forms require a particular rhyme scheme. Other forms do not allow rhyme. Haiku is one of the forms that should never rhyme. With free verse, which is so popular today, rhyme is completely optional.

This question could be perceived as asking if rhyming form poetry is better than free verse poetry. I tend to consider form poetry to usually be better quality than free verse poetry, because many people write anything, break it into lines, and call it a free verse poem even if it lacks any literary merit. Poetry is literature, whether it is form or free verse. There are good and bad of both types of poetry.

Commonly, people confuse free verse poetry with journaling. Free verse poetry is literature. It uses literary devices like such as metaphor, alliteration, an allegory, and descriptive imagery. Good free verse poetry is provocative and causes the reader to consider something in a new light. Journaling is writing down your thoughts without considering the quality of the result. The goal of journaling is to record thoughts and feelings. The goal of free verse poetry is to share a thought, experience, or feeling that is expressed through literary artistic expression.

In free verse, rhyme can be used as a tool to draw attention to particular words or for emphasis. However, it's easy for rhyme to become a distraction in any type of poetry. A poet writing a rhyming poem typically has to make the rhyme as unobtrusive as possible. When the poet uses a word that seems to be used solely for the purpose of the rhyme, the flow stumbles and the quality of the poem suffers irrevocably. There's no recovering from bad rhyme or good rhyme at the expense of the reader's experience. The rhyme should be so natural that the reader becomes oblivious to the fact that the lines rhyme. This is a challenge of writing most poetic forms.

Journaling or freewriting is not without merit when preparing to write a poem. I usually do some freewriting before I settle on which form of poetry I want to write. I find the subject, the emotion, the uniqueness first. Then, I choose a form of poetry to use that I think would best express that idea.

The villanelle is my favorite form for its haunting repetition. However, a subject that would be expressed well in haiku or a sonnet might not necessary feel natural to me in villanelle form. That is my process. That's the process that answers the question of whether or not my poem should rhyme. It depends on which form best expresses the subject.

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    • Don Crowson profile image

      Don Crowson 5 years ago

      Exactly, Sheila, you hit the nail on the head. Good hub