Sue Dymoke

Write, Read, Perform, Listen to Poetry

Do poets need rhymes?

Claudia Hammond’s ‘Mind Changers’ on Friday on BBC Radio 4 was about ‘Abraham Maslow and the Hierarchy of Needs’. This was an unexpected and welcome treat for me while trapped on the M1 for two and a half hours of what is usually a 50 minute journey. After reviewing Maslow’s original ground-breaking hierarchy, the speakers began to explore needs beyond the fundamentals of food, shelter and love.  One suggested that poets need rhymes. Do we though? Is it a common public perception of poets that our lives are incomplete unless we can round off a couplet, firm up a stanza, polish off a limerick or weave together a performance piece with a neat concordance of sound? Are we on the look out for internal rhymes too? When I’m drafting, I find that rhymes happen when I’m least expecting them. The sudden surprise of sound can be delicious and take me off in new directions. At other times it can be a distraction.

2 comments on “Do poets need rhymes?

  1. Josephine Corcoran
    April 22, 2013

    Hi Sue,
    I went to a great writing workshop at the weekend, run by George Szirtes, and we discussed rhyme. Favourite quotes from him that I recorded in my notebook were “rhyme is an accident waiting to happen” and “the rhyme isn’t there to trap you but to free you.” I enjoy experimenting with rhyme but I always start with what I’m trying to say, rather than with form of any kind – rhyming is a kind of form, isn’t it? I really object to forced rhyme! You’re right, there IS a perception in many people, usually non-poetry readers, I think, about poetry needing to rhyme. I have taken to carrying The Waste Land in my holdall when I run a writing workshop to point out (to any doubters) that the book is over 100 years old and that there has been a lot of non-rhyming poetry since the days of Wordsworth – who didn’t use rhyme exclusively in any case. Spoken word poetry uses rhyme a lot, that’s something else to consider. Thanks, Sue for a thought-provoking post!

    • Sue Dymoke
      April 22, 2013

      Thanks Josephine. For me experiment and responding to new and accidental juxtapositions in language are key factors in writing so George’s words of wisdom certainly strike a chord. On another note, those who think poets should rhyme sometimes also think a female poet should be a ‘poetess’ – I wonder if there is a link there!

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