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To Rhyme or Not To Rhyme: Making the Choice

Updated on December 8, 2013

To Rhyme or Not To Rhyme

To rhyme or not to rhyme? That is the question we're trying to answer here. Well truly is up to the poet to decide which one is more effective for them. I personally lean towards free form, though I've written several rhyming poems also. So, how do you decide which one works best for you? Reading. Arts in general aren't learned through just doing them. Yes, practice makes perfect. But the truest way of learning an art form is to develop a balance of practicing and watching other people's work. Writing a play for example, you'll never know how well of a writer you are unless you write yourself. But also, one can't just expect to know how to write a play from the get-go, or expect to be the next Tennessee Williams the moment they set pen to paper. No, one has to read several plays to get a feel of how they flow, how they come together, what makes them work. The same with getting the feel about what makes rhyming different than free form and why one is more effective in situations than others. The difference, which I will go into more detail in, in coming sections is in the emotional circumstances under which the poem as written. Poems, for me, are just capturing of moments. It's a freedom of expression that speaks to an experience we wish for others to feel and understand. It comes from the heart, from the hurt and pain, joy and happiness, true love and broken hearts. But which form effectively communicates these many feelings?

Queen of Sondheim singing "Send in the Clowns"

Rhythm of Emotions

Emotions. Emotions. Emotions.

Emotions is the answer to the rhyming or free-form question. To communicate this, I'm going to use one of the saddest and most well-written songs that exist from one of the greatest lyricists to exist. Side note: I do believe that lyrics are poetry and write them just as much as I write poetry. Now this song uses both non-rhyming and rhyming, but the point I'm trying to make here is that though some of these lines don't rhyme and particularly the lines involving the title, it works extremely well because of the emotion behind the song.

"Send In the Clowns" - Stephen Sondheim

Isn't it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air.
Send in the clowns.

Isn't it bliss?
Don't you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can't move.
Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns.

Just when I'd stopped opening doors,
Finally knowing the one that I wanted was yours,
Making my entrance again with my usual flair,
Sure of my lines,
No one is there.

Don't you love farce?
My fault I fear.
I thought that you'd want what I want.
Sorry, my dear.
But where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns.
Don't bother, they're here.

Isn't it rich?
Isn't it queer,
Losing my timing this late
In my career?
And where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns.
Well, maybe next year

Notice as you go through the lyrics, the rhyming does't really come in until the final two stanzas but it's not your typical rhyming scheme. And also, there aren't really any times where a rhyme is created for the clown lines, (no, clown rhyming with clown is not one). But this works effectively to portray the sadness behind this song. And that's one of the first emotions I want to talk about when it comes to free form.


Sadness, Depression, Anger, etc.

In situations of hurt, I feel free-form is the most effective to use. Why? The amount of freedom. In these moments of heightened emotions it's not about what rhymes with what, but communicating these feelings with as many or as few words as possible. Majority of the dark poems I write are free-form. Then, it's not about the rhythm of the words. I don't care about the rhythm. I'm not saying rhyming can't work. It can. I just feel in these moments, it's about painting the picture and creating the atmosphere of darkness you feel and I personally don't have time to consult the thesaurus and rhyming dictionaries. One will find that when in these situations, the thoughts just flow, this is how you feel and you write them down rhyming or not.

Love, Happiness, Joy, etc.

On the other end of the spectrum, the happy feelings, I feel rhyming works most effectively under these circumstances. There's a rhythm and musical feeling to these emotions and rhyming I feel captures that music in some of the most elegant and graceful ways. This is actually the only time I write in rhyming form. I find in these moments, I want to rhyme. I want to take the time to craft something elegant and meaningful that has rhythm and pace to it.

One feeling, that doesn't fall in with the happy feelings, but still is effectively communicated with rhyme is being brokenhearted, just look at Adele (6 Grammys). Again it's the rhythm of the words. But, being brokenhearted can work under both circumstances, I feel.

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