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Study the poetic forms of other nations.

Many English-speaking people have a limited view of what constitutes poetry. For instance, many think that poetry really needs to rhyme. The views and traditions we are most reliant upon for English language poetry were brought forward from classical languages such as Greek and Latin and through French. Standard English is really not the most conducive language for rhyming. French is a much better rhyming language, as are certain dialects of English such as Scots English or American Southern English. Both of these dialects tend to drop letters in pronunciation that make them seem not to rhyme. For instance in Scots, "wall" is pronounced "wa'", so that it could rhyme with sofa. An example of the non-rhotic American Southern Dialect in a blues song perfectly rhymes the words "Ford", "load" and "road". The truth is that the poetic traditions of many nations and languages do not include rhyme. Poetic forms in some languages do use and even depend on rhymes in various forms. Russian and French are excellent examples. On the other hand, other countries and languages take different approaches that may be transferable to your poetry.

Some Japanese poetic forms are based on syllable counts, such as the Haiku or Tanka. Old Norse forms were based on alliteration and stress. Common Slavic (before 10th Century A.D.) poems were unrhymed with lines of equal numbers of syllables. Old Irish poetry was based on cadence alternating stressed and unstressed syllables. Even older forms stemming from the Indo-European root language alternated long and short syllables. Indian poetry (Sanskrit and Tamil) also started out most concerned with rhythm alternating what they refer to as heavy and light syllables. Again a poetic device that was often used to tie the stresses together was alliteration. The Welsh dyfalu is another example of a foreign device that can be used in English.

Looking to other languages to determine the devices used in their poetry can give you a richer set of tools that is not limited to rhythm and rhyme alone.

 
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