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What is 'rhyme'?

Poetry Techniques

Michael Rosen (Poet and Children's Laureate) gives expert video advice on: What is 'rhyme'?; Does a poem have to rhyme?; Do different types of rhyme create different effects? and more...

What is 'rhyme'?

Rhyme is a way of repeating sounds. If you take the word "gate", that rhymes with "mate" - I've repeated the "ah" and the "t" but changed the very first sound. Essentially, that's what rhyme is. We seem to like it. We seem to like that echoing. It's a way of linking words that maybe otherwise would not be linked. If you link gate with mate, you'll suddenly be starting thinking of maybe you met your mate by the gate and turning that into a poem. So, rhyme is a way of linking ideas based on the sounds that those ideas make.

Does a poem have to rhyme?

With the question 'do poems have to rhyme?', the best way to think about it, is if you read the first translations of the Bible. They took a Hebrew poem, often called The Song of Solomon, and translated it into what we would now call free-verse. The same goes for the Psalms. So, people knew in the 17th century that you could have many <a href="http://www.videojug.com/interview/types-of-poetry-2">types of poetry</a> that didn't have to rhyme. Now, it took a long time for people to have the nerve to start writing new poems in a way that didn't rhyme. I think the first person who did it was probably the German poet Henry Heiner who wrote some poems about looking at the North Sea, and he discovered that you could just write a contemplation of the North Sea and not make it rhyme. And ever since then, people have thought it was a very good idea.

Do different types of rhyme create different effects?

If you make your rhymes less obvious and perhaps even less perfect, this would give you more scope to say things in a slightly more complex way. The rhyme becomes if you like, it doesn't become a straight jacket and doesn't funnel you down one path that probably will end up sounding slightly comic.

Is it cheating to use a rhyming dictionary?

I most certainly do not think it is cheating to use a rhyming dictionary. Rhyming dictionaries throw up all kinds of extraordinary surprises, because in English we do not always spell the same sounds in the same way, like making 'u' sounds - I can think the use of 'u' as in "you". So you are, in a way, constantly surprised by what words rhyme. And so allow yourself that luxury of flicking over pages of the rhyming dictionary. I have never thought that together and weather rhyme, but of course they do.

What's the difference between imagery and symbolism in poetry?

Usually we use the word symbol to mean a specific word that we understand to be representing something else. So just as we say in life that "an orb held by the monarch represents the kingdom that the monarch rules over," so you could say that some things are symbolic. So if suddenly you're lying on your back and you're looking at a bird flying free and you talk about this lark flying and getting freer and freer then in a way the lark symbolizes freedom. Imagery usually we use it to mean something slightly less explicit and more ambiguous, not tied up so neatly. We usually use the word symbol to say that is symbolic of that but an image resonates. It has lots of meanings that you can speculate about.