Personally I write in rhyme because I find it very difficult not to and one thing I have learned, over the last five or so years, is that with any piece you write, if it rhymes, then that should be a bonus – the icing on the cake.
I have been editing other people’s rhyming poems & stories in verse for over three years now and one thing that pops up over and over is that the pursuit of rhyme can, and often will, smother the story. Story is key. As Dori Chaconas says in her Icing the Cake article – The Story is the cake, the rhyme and rhythm are the icing. I would like to go so far as to say that the story is the cake, the rhythm is the flavour and the rhyme alone is the icing. For me, the rhyme should be incidental, a subtle surprise, never, ever the main ingredient.
This observation, of course, is more true for stories written in verse than for poems. A poem needn’t necessarily tell a story but I still feel that it is important to only rhyme when the words that you are using are the best ones and are not there just because they rhyme. In the business we call this forced rhyme and it sticks out like a bee sting. Here is an example of a forced rhyme…
My sniffily dog
Has a snuffily nose
That goes with him
Where ever he goes
It’s slippery and slimy
A bit like a snail
And he sniffles and snuffles
And waggles his tail
The whole poem is about the dog’s nose and even though the word ‘tail’ rhymes perfectly with snail, it really doesn’t help to complete the essence of what the rest of the poem is about. The last line jars you out the poem – I can imagine the sound a record player needle makes when its knocked and scratches across the record. Or nails down a chalk board. It’s just not pleasant.
So for a bit of fun – can anyone think of a better line for this poem?
And in case you’re interested…yes, I wrote it. And no, it’s never been published.
If you have any comments or questions about rhyme, please do post them in the comments section below. I will be pleased to share what I have learned.