029: No Time for Forced Rhyme

No Time for Forced Rhyme

How to avoid the poet's nightmare

December 9, 2016

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One of the most common reasons for editors to reject a poem is bad meter. Meter is the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a poem. When the pattern works, the sound of the poem aids the content of the poem instead of distracting from it. Many writers think it’s enough to for a poem to rhyme but don’t understand the nature and construction of meter.

So, if you know how to handle meter, you’re more than halfway to selling your poetry. But there is another problem that is probably just as widespread and can affect even writers with a totally perfect ear for meter.

I’m talking about forcing the rhyme. Sometimes a poem will be about a specific subject, or be telling us a lively story, but the writer will suddenly find herself stuck. She needs a line to rhyme with a different line. After all, rhyme scheme is important.

So, she’ll make a slight detour in subject so that she can make the rhyme––then she’ll return to the first subject:

While birdies all stand ‘round and preen
Spring wears a bright weskit of green
With buttons of white
A dazzling sight
The choicest of seasons I’ve seen.

Okay…why are there birds in a poem that’s basically a simile about how the bright spring grass and white spring flowers are compared to stylish clothes? Sure, there are birds in spring. And preening is kind of related to sartorial splendor, but let’s be honest––the birds snuck in to make a line that rhymes with green. And the poem’s writer knows it did. The editor knows it  too. The poem is not likely to sell, even overlooking the lame last line.

Once you’ve chosen what your poem will be about, you must be true to that. Rhyme and meter is essential but content is just as essential. It’s not a hierarchy. All must work together.

To find out how to make it work, listen to this episode.

Click here to download the show notes with extra resources!

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