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Learn About Rhyming Schemes in Poetry

Updated on April 3, 2015
There are many different rhyming schemes used in poetry; each has a different effect on the reader
There are many different rhyming schemes used in poetry; each has a different effect on the reader | Source

The rhyming scheme in a poem can make a significant difference to how the reader reacts to it. In this article, we'll explore the differences between classic rhyming schemes and other, more complex schemes, including the impact on the reader of the poem.


Classic rhyming schemes

Many poems follow a classic AA rhyming scheme, where paired lines rhyme - e.g.

'The wind blew me strong, across the beach; The rising breeze robbed me from the power of speech'

or an ABAB scheme, where alternate lines rhyme - e.g.

'For free of blame and guilt are we; The runners of the Wyld Dream; Tossed tempestuous, within the sea; Moonlight rising, the gilded gleam.'

The joy of a standard AA or ABAB structure is that people know what is coming:

  • They can relax into the poem, understanding the rhyme and meter
  • They can get lost in the flow of the rhyme

Many song lyrics and structures follow this convention, so people know it. If you know what is coming next, you can enjoy the rhythm and the melody of the writing or the song.

This can 'lull' the reader, and the rhythm of the poem becomes as important as the words - it becomes central to the art form itself.


Discordant rhyming schemes

As soon as you start changing that rhyming scheme, that's when you start demanding more from the reader. A 'discordant' rhyming scheme and generally, uneven / unusual rhyme schemes can create quirky and slightly off balance feelings / images in the reader.

  • As soon as you start changing that, the poem demands more focus
  • It needs more work to 'unwrap' it and enjoy its nuances

The reader has to concentrate more on that type of poem. Because its more challenging, they could potentially find it more rewarding.

This puts the focus more on the words themselves; the poem can be a problem to be solved.


Very discordant rhyming schemes

Then of course, you have poems with very diverse rhyming schemes that become very discordant - The jazz of writing if you will. I think with that type of poetry, its the clever interplay between the words that creates a structure of language that needs real effort to navigate. Again though, the emotional rewards for this type of poem can be different.

Ultimately, write whatever type of poetry works for you, and adopt the rhyming scheme that makes the most sense; that way, you can use the art form as intended, to express yourself in a fascinating and interesting way, and take others with you on the journey.

Are you a poet? Let us know how you use rhyming schemes and what you think the impact is, in the comments.

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    • Paul Maplesden profile image
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      Paul Maplesden 2 years ago from Asheville, NC

      I think that playing with different rhyming schemes can keep poetry fresh and interesting; Sonnets can be a little tricky, but I agree that they are fun to write!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Good hub Paul. Most of my poetry rhymes but not all and I do vary my rhyming schemes so my work is always different and not predictable. ABAB is probably the most used over all however. Recently I was challenged to write a sonnet, which I had never done before. I had to research "sonnets" so that I knew what was required. It was challenging but I loved the result and can't wait to write more sonnets.

    • Paul Maplesden profile image
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      Paul Maplesden 2 years ago from Asheville, NC

      I'm not aware of the first form that you mentioned, but will look into it. Glad you enjoyed the article!

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 2 years ago from Reno NV

      It is interesting to see how a quatrain rhyming scheme pairs with the couplet in old forms like Terza rima and sonnets. The creation of these forms were based on how the rhyme scheme affects the reader. Great hub! Thanks. Jamie

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