A blog by Nikki Dudley about the gaps in everyday life...


Thursday, 29 October 2009

What's in a rhyme?

As most of you know, I am a poet as well as a fiction writer. Therefore, I really enjoyed the following article...


What a question: Why Don't Poems Rhyme Anymore? I spent years at school learning about rhyme and went to university and learnt how to un-rhyme. Yes, I know it's not a word! And this is precisely the point. As much as I appreciate the old forms and their traditions- Keat's sonnets, the Victoria poets, iambic pentameter, rhyming couplets, refrains etc etc, I can't help loving the possibilities provided by a lack of rhyme.

As this article also notes, non rhyming poetry is not without it's rhythm or song. And not only that, the diversion from constantly trying to rhyme words certainly opens up words to a whole multitude of possibilities. As John Lundberg discusses in this article, simply playing with the three words that Stein uses 'roast potatoes for' can spark off an hour long discussion (as it did on my Masters course). Is the 'roast' a verb? If so, are they being roasted 'for' someone? Or is the 'for' referring to some purpose not detailed here? Is the 'roast' merely descriptive? And most importantly, is this even a poem!?

So many questions and although this is a little sparse, there are plenty of examples of more contemporary poets using meter without rhyme i.e.: some bpNichol, Maggie O'Sullivan, and some newer poets such as Harry Godwin, Marcus Slease... (Also William Carlos Williams, who I notice has made it onto the tube posters of late!) Although not traditionally rhying, they have elements of word play, repetitive sounds, playing with different sounds in the throat.

I think it's terrible to dismiss rhyme and equally terrible to dismiss those who don't use it. Both have a place and poetry is one of the forms of expression which I think has a varied and fascinating progression that can be mapped through many different times. What is also fascinating is when forms return to the forefront, recede and mix with others. It's us non-rhymers who feel able to appreciate the older forms as well as branching out into new things. Simply rejecting one whole style of writing poetry seems a bit of a shame as it's all fascinating stuff! And although the President of the 'The Queen's English Society' meant to put down non rhyming poetry by using the term 'word-things' to describe them, I think myself and other poets who write this way would find that a compliment. 'Word-things' is so much more playful after all...


  1. Wow, what a blogger you are! Very interesting and informative. As you say the variation in poetry is what is keeping it interesting and alive. All art forms have to evolve and poetry is no different.

  2. Where would purple oranges be without free verse!



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