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Does Poetry Need to Rhyme?

This is a question of what makes poetry good or bad. If we’re going to figure out whether rhyming is that critical factor that makes a poem, I believe we should highlight what else the poet has in their arsenal to beautify their writing.

Here’s a list.

  1. Literary devices
  2. Rhetorical devices
  3. Sensory detail
  4. Style and voice
  5. And brevity

My favorite literary devices are juxtaposition, personification and symbolism. When using juxtaposition, I place two concepts or situations, either dissimilar or one causing the other, close to each other and allow the reader to draw their conclusions. In my use of personification, nature is the subject of my writing, so I would take clouds or leaves and give them human form or attributes. Finally, I use symbolism in my quatrains where one object, personified or juxtaposed with another, represents a more abstract concept.

Rhetorical devices are those that assist in arguing a point. Here are my favorite three – apostrophe, metanoia and  antithesis.

I believe that apostrophe might be the result of my use of stream of consciousness when I write and speak. This rhetorical device can be used to take information about one individual and presenting it to the person you’re debating with.

Metanoia is a simple device; you simply use an adjective or verb to strengthen the word before it.

“To help or, at least, to do no harm.” Metanoia is often used to strengthen a statement, but, in this phrase, it is used to merely correct a phrase.

Antithesis is when you make a connection between two contrasting elements to make a point. 

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” – Neil Armstrong

The Five Senses

With sensory detail, imagery is definitely the most popular because of its ability to effectively stir the emotions. Touch is second as we can only remember the feeling of touch and simulate it within our minds, but if we don’t have the memory of these sensations, then it can be difficult to react to such details. That’s where desire can become very useful. Combine touch with desire and our readers are more likely to be moved by our story. You can do this by granting desire to a character that can’t have what he wants. The last three, smell, taste and hearing are less substantial and, I feel, harder to relay to the reader.

Style and Voice

These two develop themselves over time and, in my experience, are the result of experiencing many types of poetry and emulating them to create a style and a voice that is your own; enriched only by literary and rhetorical devices that help to unleash your creativity.


In my first few years, my biggest challenge with brevity was verbosity. I couldn’t describe the beauty of nature without using words that I thought were beautiful that only served to alienate my readers. You can accomplish brevity by repositioning the words of a sentence. Go to this blog for more on this: https://readyourselfpoetry.com/how-to-write-a-good-sonnet/

Along with this, I’ll write, on our little clipboard, two questions that should be answered in this post –

Our Two Questions

  • When is rhyming necessary?

My best answer to this is that it depends on the intent of the writer. The device is never really necessary unless the writer perceives that it is. Rhyming helps to deliver that emotional impact every poem should have on their reader and the emotions of the writer dictate how a poem should rhyme and where. Let this be what we’ll define as “necessary” – the ability of our poet to make skillful use of the first five devices on our list. I believe there are other factors that decide this, such as the initial value that an idea has to the poet; value equating to the personal content of our writing and how relatable the writer can make the poem. Then there are the tools our writer uses to communicate their message and the actual writing of our poem – how does the poet feel while they write? Are they moved by their message? It’s important that a writer be as pleased by their work as their audience, but beauty isn’t just about an emotional impact.  We can separate “pleasure” into two categories – emotional and intellectual. I would take such devices as imagery, repetition and rhyme and put them under the emotional. Then, the rhetorical arguments we make within our writing and the use of brevity would fall under the intellectual. I feel that rhyming would then become necessary when the emotional impact of our poetry falls short. Though, in my opinion, you should first make sure that you take care of the intellectual aspect of writing; dealing with your message is at highest priority. To me, this is all about balance. I write more about balance here – https://readyourselfpoetry.com/how-to-write-poetry/

  • If we intend to rhyme, how should we rhyme?

There are a few ways that we can rhyme, including rhyme scheme and the option to choose between internal and end rhyme. There is also the half rhyme or near rhyme, which takes a smaller part of a word to rhyme with rather than its entirety, as in the full rhyme.

Let’s go ahead and break down a poem by Emily Dickinson, who often uses near rhyme in her writing.

‘Tis Sunrise — Little Maid — Hast Thou

No Station in the Day?

‘Twas not thy wont, to hinder so —

Retrieve thine industry —

‘Tis Noon — My little Maid —

Alas — and art thou sleeping yet?

The Lily — waiting to be Wed —

The Bee — Hast thou forgot?

My little Maid — ‘Tis Night — Alas

That Night should be to thee

Instead of Morning — Had’st thou broached

Thy little Plan to Die —

Dissuade thee, if I could not, Sweet,

I might have aided — thee —

The first quatrain is a delicate way of telling our little maid to “get back to work”. Emily would often rhyme words that end with “ey” sounds with “ee” sounds, though they aren’t the traditional rhyme. The second quatrain seems to be an order directed at the maid aid in a wedding between the lily and the bee; also, there’s an internal rhyme. Again, we see the last sound of a word rhyming with another (yet and forgot, maid and wed”), though the words “yet” and ”wed” seem to rhyme more, again showing that Emily is very liberal with her rhyming. This seems to me a very sinister poem, since it appears that Emily is saying that she would help the little maid commit suicide.

Now, to answer the question – how should we rhyme? What you should first know is that it depends on the poet – then I must tell you that your rhyming should be consistent. Breaking your rhyme scheme can result in a cacophony in your poetry. If you’re going to use internal rhymes, do so in the places your previous internal rhymes correspond to.





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