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Don Yarber Don Yarber
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On writing rhyming poetry "forced" or not.

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How to avoid "forced" rhymes in rhyming poetry

On writing rhyming poetry

One of the things that I’ve noticed when people write “rhyming” poetry, is that they often will write something, a line, a sentence, or a word, that could be written differently.  I know the reason for the line, sentence or word is to rhyme with the corresponding word in a previous line.

An example is:

I was writing this poem as an example
And as I thought and thought about words
I was trying to find the right rhyming ones
Like duelists choosing the right swords.

(Actually the last line isn’t ALL THAT BAD!)

But the last line just does not seem to fit the idea of a person racking his brain trying to find a word that rhymes with “words”.  It is what is called “forced” rhyming.  The author (me) has “forced” a completely off topic last line in order to find a rhyme for “words”.  

How do we avoid “forced” rhymes?  There are several techniques.  The primary technique is to think about what we want to rhyme before we write it.  Or to re-write it, once it has been written.

The above verse is what is called 2-4 rhyme.  It means that the 2nd line of the verse ends in a word that rhymes with the 4th line’s last word.  In the above, “words” and “swords”.  The two words are somewhat rhyming, but would not be my choice of “perfect” rhymes.  So how do I fix it?

I re-think what it is that I’m trying to say.  Example:

I was writing this poem as an example
And as I thought about what to say,
I searched through my mind time after time
And thought of a much different way.

You can see that I’ve kept the intent of the verse.  I  just thought of a different way to write the second line using a word that is easier to find a rhyme for. Then  I rewrote the last line using “way” to match with “say” in the second line.  Simple?  Well it takes practice.  Not everyone can concentrate their thinking abilities in such a manner right off the starting blocks, but after practice, it can be accomplished.  To seasoned poets it is so ingrained that it becomes second nature.  If they find themselves at a point where their poems sound “forced” they automatically will rewrite a line or two, thinking of a different way to say something, using words that will fall into the rhyming category.  

A lot of people will not attempt to write “rhyming” poetry because they deem it too hard.  I used to think it was harder to write free verse because I simply had never tried to write free verse.  After a couple of attempts, I see that it is actually easier to let your thoughts run a little freer, use similes and metaphors more freely, and still convey the meaning of the piece to the reader.  It is a little more difficult to write “rhyming” poetry conveying the same meaning and topic, but by doing so I think we turn on the creative juices and force our minds to think of “different” ways to convey our messages.  

I took a course in political persuasion speech writing while in college.  Without getting too deep into that topic, it is like persuading someone to think the way your candidate wants them to think, using words and phrases that you are sure will get their attention, hold their attention and sway their thought processes.

The same is true of poetry, whether it is “free verse” or “rhyming”.  In the poem below, I have a point that I’m trying to get across and that point is:  We get what we are willing to work for.  

Ode to a Wild Rose

Once while I was walking through the open fields
And meditating on the beauty of the land,
I came upon a Wild Rose, lovely and lonely,
And stooped to pick it with an admiring hand.

Deep in the bush the Wild Rose nestled softly,
With dewdrops glistening on its pedals fine.
My hand was scratched and pricked by many thorns,
Blood trickled freely, yet the rose was mine.

Later in the garden of my home I strolled,
Along a path where often I had trod,
Gazing into the stars, diamonds on black velvet,
Ever-watching stars, the eyes of God.

My hand at my side brushed against a damp rose,
Growing right beside the path on which I stood.
Without an effort I picked the dew damp rose
And smelled its delicate fragrance, pure and good.

But somehow the sweet aroma that I scented
Could not compare with the rose I’d found.
And suddenly I discovered myself thinking
Thoughts I never knew within my mind were bound.

The common things in life are at our fingertips.
They seem to lose their value when we take them.
But for the beautiful Wild Rose of life I’ll strive.
The Best Things In Life Are What We Make Them.

In the third verse of the above poem, I had written the second line “Along a path where often I had walked”.  I was stumped for a few moments because I did not want to use the word “talked” in the 4th line of the verse.  I couldn’t think of any way to fit in “talked” (which rhymes with “walked”) so I re-wrote the line, “Along a path where often I had trod” Trod means the same thing as “walked” but is a different way of saying it.  Then it was easy to write the 3rd and 4th lines, “Gazing into the stars, diamonds on black velvet, ever-watching stars, the eyes of God.  “God” rhymes perfectly with “trod”.
So the verse was written.  It took a little doing, a little thought, a little effort, but the verse was written.  I hope that this lesson on writing rhyming poetry will help those of you who love to use that genre.  I, for one, think that it is a very effective way to communicate my ideas and emotions, and isn’t that what writing is all about?

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