R is for Rhyme Thyme

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

Poetry has schemes. It hatches plots. Poetry jumps to rhythm and at times uses language in unexpected ways. It raps in rhyme. Its feet dance in stanzas and quatrains and tersets.

Poetry can be free verse, but even then, it should flow. Traditional poetry had rules that governed the art. It incorporated rhyme schemes, which are the practice of rhyming words placed in specific positions, often at the end of the line. Rhyme schemes can be queried out by using alphabetic notations for clarity and definition. A letter represents the end sound. If there is a rhyme, the end sound becomes apparent by the repetition of the letter.

For example:     Roses are red    (A)

Violets are blue (B)

Sugar is sweet (C)

And so are you. (B)

This poem has an ABCB rhyme scheme.

Rhyme schemes can run all sort of directions, but the most common are AABB (The Heavens opened up with tears/and worries erased all of the years/they lost when separated/each no more berated.) ABAB (My love for you is without compare/ without definition and limitation/ withstanding trials others could not bare/ while managing life’s every temptation.) AABA (…whose woods these are I think I know/ his house is in the village though/ He will not see me stopping here/ to watch his woods fill up with snow… -from Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods On a Snowy Evening.”) ABBA and so on.

Passages where all the line endings rhyme are dubbed mono-rhyming. Couplets are groups of two rhyming lines with about the same poetic feet. (Wait, what are poetic feet, you wonder? Fear not! Poetic feet are groups of two or three syllables that are used to determine the poetic meter. The number of feet – or beats – produce a feel and flow.) Triplet or tercet consist of three lines of poetry, usually rhyming, with about the same number of poetic feet in each line. Quatrain means four and is sometimes called a stanza.

But one wonders what defines a rhyme? Rhyming words have close or similar sounds between accented syllables. They can be perfect, imperfect, partial, near, slanted, or para-rhyming. Hat and cat rhyme. When children sing the “Name Game” song, they play language and learn rhyme. “Jake, Jake, bo bake, fee fi fo fake…” Dr. Seuss made great use of rhyme in his children’s books and early readers.

When to pen such whimsical words? Rhythm and rhyme present a pattern created by using words to produce the same or similar sounds to create a musical effect. Rhyme lends a practiced air to some poetry. For other pieces, its inclusion is an intrusion, where the light-hearted feel of rhyme may seem inappropriate or undignified.

Mohammed Ali, the lean, mean fighting machine, spoke in rhyme at times. Music, especially rap, relies on rhyme and rhythm, as do jingles in advertising.

Interesting studies by educators and psychologists identify understanding rhyme as an important component in reading development and comprehension. Recognizing rhyme aid in humor, and rhythm can be linked to mathematics, so remember, December is not far away, so read, with speed, a great poem today!