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Rhyme Will Get You in the End

While we are most familiar with end rhyme in poetry, there are several other varieties, such as: climbing rhyme, internal rhyme, and cross rhyme. End rhyme has several drawbacks, the primary one being its obviousness. Because of its prominence in most forms of rhymed poetry, bad end rhyme will stick out flagrantly. The purposes of such sonic poetic devices as rhyme and alliteration are to bind the poem together pleasingly, in the lines, across lines, and so forth, but not be obtrusive. If the audience notices rhyme or other devices, they may start concentrating on form, rather than content. Form and poetic devices should be subsumed, so supportive of the content that they disappear.

Non-end rhyme offers options that allow the poet to have rhyme that binds the poem in less predictable ways. So, let's take a look at some varieties and how they can work for poets.

Climbing (Falling) Rhyme

Climbing (falling) rhyme is found as a requirement in several Southeast Asian forms, such as the than-bauk. The rhyme moves one syllable in place from line to line, so in the first line, the rhyme might appear in the last syllable. In the next line, it appears in the penultimate syllable. In the third line, it appears two syllables in from the end. It is not unusual to have longer poems where a new rhyme starts in the last syllable of the third line. The climbing rhymes are usually not carried beyond three lines, so a pattern might be established like:

xxxa
xxax
xaxb
xxbx
xbxc
xxcx
xcxd, etc.

Here's another rhyme scheme that uses elements of rhyme that shifts position:

xxxxxa
xxxxxaxb
xxxxxb
xxxxxbxc
xxxxxc
xxxxxcxd
xxxxxd
xxxxxdxe
xxxxxe
xxxxxexa

That example has lines of six and eight syllables alternating. Effectually, this pattern gives us split couplets with a twist, since each rhyme continues as cross rhyme into the first line of the next couplet.

Naturally, if the rhyme can move backwards through the lines, then it could also move forwards.

Her hair was gold
and with square bangs
that gave her flare.

Internal Rhyme

Internal rhyme is when there is a syllable in the middle of the line that rhymes with the end of the line.

I saw the sea, and it saw me.
I made the waves to all behave,
by hook and crook the oceans shook!

If anything, this technique can make the lines seem shorter than they are, especially if the poet places the internal rhyme in the same position in each line. That would tend to exacerbate one of the problems encountered with end rhyme: the Seuss Effect. It's better to vary the internal rhyme you use. Sometimes have it at the beginning, sometimes in the middle, sometimes at the end, and frequently not at all.

Down the river, and near the town,
where children squawk and run and play,
a bluebird sat upon a branch.
To have his say, he sang this way:
Took-a-too-ra-lie-lie, took-a-too-ra-lay.

I listened well to hear him tell
of dreams he had for days to come.
But then a boy, he threw a rock,
and struck the birdy drum as he hummed:
Took-a-too-ra-lie-lie, took-a-too-ra-lum.

It can also be used to produce an echoic effect within the line.

Cross Rhyme

Cross rhyme is created by making fun of end rhyme all day long. It becomes quite cross, and starts altering the poem to spell naughty words at you. Or maybe I just wanted to see if anyone had read this far.

Since we're talking about alternatives to end rhyme, maybe we had better use the other definition of cross rhyme. It is when a word in the middle of one line rhymes with the ending word of an adjacent line.

Somewhere in the night I heard the hinges creak,
and felt a body, warm and sleek, join me in delight.

Happy writing!

The Gnostic Poet


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