Poetry sucks! …unless it rhymes?!

23 Jul








This student’s opinion on poetry makes me giggle a little bit. It reminds me of this:

Now ignoring the fact that ‘rhyming’ is not spelling correctly, let’s focus on what’s really at stake here: does poetry suck or not? To this 12 or 13 year old genius, it does not. Are they right?Now, I youtubed poetry to explore the idea that rhyme is intimately intertwined with poetry and many people vehemently argue that indeed, poems MUST rhyme. However, I am here to dispel the myth that poems do NOT need to rhyme to be poem.

My personal definition of poetry is that it is basically carefully crafted word art. Check out my About page for more on that nugget. Quote me if you wish. However, to be a bit more acadmic, check out my good findings for what poetry is:

Don’t deny that you don’t google anything and everything and take it at face value. Rhyme is NOT the same as rhythm.

Check out this comparison of rhyme and rhythm:

Rhyme Rhythm
/raɪm/  [rahym] noun, verb, rhymed, rhym·ing. noun 1.

identity in sound of some part, especially the end, of words or lines of verse.


a word agreeing with another in terminal sound: Find is a rhyme for  mind and  womankind.


verse or poetry having correspondence in the terminal sounds of the lines.


a poem or piece of verse having such correspondence.


verse ( def. 4 ) .

  /ˈrɪðəm/ [rithuhm]noun 1.

movement or procedure with uniform or patterned recurrence of a beat, accent, or the like.


Music .


the pattern of regular or irregular pulses caused in music by the occurrence of strong and weak melodic and harmonic beats.


a particular form of this: duple rhythm; triple rhythm.


measured movement, as in dancing.


Art, Literature . a patterned repetition of a motif, formal element, etc., at regular or irregular intervals in the same or a modified form.


the effect produced in a play, film, novel, etc., by the combination or arrangement of formal elements, as length of scenes, speech and description, timing, or recurrent themes, to create movement, tension, and emotional value in the development of the plot.

Nature’s first green in gold

Her hardest hue to hold

-Robert Frost

Fat black bucks in a wine-barrelroom

Barrel-house kings, with feet unstable,

Sagged and reeled and pounded on the table

-Vashel Lindsay

Rhyme has a distinct repetition in sound that adds a rhythm quality. Rhythm makes the poem song-like:The ‘ah’ sounds in fat, black, barrelThe repetition of barrel

The rhyme of stable/table

The repeated ‘ee’ sounds in feet and reeled (assonance).

Let’s look at some examples.

Lady Gaga’s “Judas”:

In the most biblical sense, I am beyond  repentance
Fame hooker, prostitute  wench, vomits her mind
But in the  cultural sense I just speak in future tense
Judas  kiss me if offense, don’t wear your condom next time

Repentance, tense, mind and time are not true rhymes – this is an example of a half rhyme or a slant rhyme. However, to give the song rhythm, check out the highlighted words and alliteration that do give it rhythm:

In the most biblical sense, I am beyond  repentance
Fame hooker, prostitute  wench, vomits her mind
But in the  cultural sense I just speak in future tense
Judas  kiss me if offense, don’t wear your condom next time

Justin Bieber’s “Baby”:

Rhythm highlighted (but no true rhyme!)

For you, I would have done whatever
And I just can’t believe we’re here together
And I wanna play it cool, but I’m losin’ you
I’ll buy you anything, I’ll buy you any ring
And I’m in pieces, baby fix me
And just shake me ’til you wake me from this bad dream

A lot of my students are surprised to find that the songs they love, rap, even Bieber (it’s true) are all forms of poetry. It doesn’t have to rhyme as long as it’s got rhythm. It doesn’t even have to be spelled right, but it helps.

One more in favor of poetry rules!

 The score

 Poetry sucks: 1

 Poetry rules: 4


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