Would rhyme have saved them?

10. THE CHALLENGE FACTOR –Because it is very difficult to do well. Can YOUR ass do it?

9.  THE CAUSE AND EFFECT FACTOR–One cannot rhyme well without comprehending and skillfully organizing other aspects of speech, of which rhyme is the crowning emphasis: rhythm, syntax, stress, assonance, alliteration, movement, meaning.

8.  THE AGREEMENT FACTOR –We like things to agree.  We enjoy symmetry; it is why a crystal or a flower pleases us. Rhyme has this primitive quality.

7.  THE HARMONY FACTOR  –Since rhyme brings together different words in a purely musical way, it has the ability to harmonize.

6. THE MNEMONIC FACTOR –Rhyme is even utilitarian

5. THE LOVE FACTOR –The poem that rhymes beautifully and delicately is old-fashioned, but love today is old-fashioned. Poetry is traditionally associated with love—and rhyme is traditionally associated with poetry.  Leave no doubt in the beloved’s mind that poetry, the real article is your intent. Romeo and Juliet rhymes. Howl does not. Which one puts you in the mood for love?

4. THE PHYSICAL BEAUTY FACTOR –Rhymed speech has the potential to be more tangibly beautiful than speech which does not rhyme.  Speech, as speech, possesses neither color, melody, touch, nor scent.  Rhyme pleases, and does so physically; rhyme helps talk become a body.

3. THE DIVINE COMEDY FACTOR –Dante’s famous poem is the greatest poem ever written; this Italian work contains so many Italian rhymes that it cannot be translated into English.

2. THE OUT-OF-FASHION FACTOR –The critically acclaimed eschew rhyme–but what if fashion changes?  (Which slowly, it seems to be doing.) Knowing rhyme’s intrinsic worth, this is your chance.

1.  THE PRETENSE FACTOR –Imagine Dr. Seuss without rhyme.  How much of the appeal would be lost?  All.  How much gained?  Nothing.  It is not always better to rhyme. Yet the pretentious convince themselves that absence of rhyme, in itself, automatically confers superiority. But as we see from our Dr. Seuss example, the “sophisticated” rationale is baseless.  HERE, THEN IS THE NUMBER ONE REASON: faulting rhyme in principle is nothing but pretense.


  1. Laura said,

    June 2, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    No rhyme is better than bad rhyme (forced rhyme, for example), which is why we did NOT encourage rhyme in the young writers we worked with in the University of Arkansas’s Writers in the Schools program. One teacher had made her elementary school students rhyme, and in each case she proudly showed us, the result was always like a very bad and sentimental Hallmark Card (though I didn’t tell her that).

    The vast majority of the poets I knew in the MFA program, however, wrote at least some formalist poetry (many wrote quite a bit), but I don’t think it’s a good place to start for most child writers.

  2. Laura said,

    June 2, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    I’ll amend my first sentence above to “A poem that contains no rhyme is better than a poem that contains bad rhyme.”

    As for your final assertion regarding what you call the “pretense factor”: That’s utterly untrue of almost all of the poets I know.

    I just don’t understand the need to be so dogmatic about such a huge genre of literature. I don’t care for the “idea novel” (talk about PRETENSE–which most such novels are full of), but “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” was an exception for me–and I would have missed it had I been so black-and-white about that principle.

    Most often, though, I’ll take the big ideas in essay form, where they can usually be done more justice.

  3. thomasbrady said,

    June 3, 2014 at 1:22 pm


    The fact that we know immediately when rhyme is ‘bad’ recommends it as a measurable aspect of literature.

    Imagine children raised on Dr. Seuss that did not rhyme—with the same content. But such speculation is moot: Dr. Seuss wouldn’t exist—we really can’t separate the content from the manner, can we?

    There is a pretense factor: it is hidden, but it exists.

    Rhyme is a great teaching tool: I would make it a requirement for most kids’ literature.

    The young should rhyme.

    The young in spirit should rhyme.

    Those who can’t rhyme shouldn’t write literature at all; they should at least prove they can first: have all arrows in their quiver. Prove yourself with 1) rhyme, 2) philosophy, and then maybe I will read your novel.

  4. Drew said,

    June 3, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    This is not about rhyme per se – but I think it is still relevant here:

    “Civilization is an impulse toward order; but high civilizations are those which operate from a base of order without at the same time denying the claims of the unpredictable and even the irrational. The impulse toward the metrical organization of assertions seems to partake of the more inclusive human impulse toward order. Meter is what results when the natural rhythmical movements of colloquial speech are heightened, organized, and regulated so that pattern – which means repetition – emerges from the relative phonetic haphazard of ordinary utterance. Because it inhabits the physical form of the very words themselves, meter is the most fundamental technique of order available to the poet.”

    “The pleasure which universally seems to result from foot tapping and musical time beating does suggest that the pleasures of meter are essentially physical and as intimately connected with the rhythmic quality of man’s total experiences the similarly alternating and recurring phenomena of breathing, walking, or lovemaking… children and the unsophisticated receive from meter almost wholly physical pleasure, manifesting itself in foot tapping and head nodding, On the other hand, more experienced and sensitive readers probably derive much of their metrical pleasure from the high degree of rhetorical attention which meter demands (‘Meter keeps the mind on the stretch,’ one critic has said), or from the intellectual and humanistic delight of witnessing order and containment being born out of chaos and flux.”

    Paul Fussell: Poetic Meter and Poetic Form

  5. Drew said,

    June 3, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    PS: Tom – how can you say we (who is this “we” ?) know immediately when rhyme is bad. Is this the inexorable will of the people or elitist opinion or consensus or what?

    • thomasbrady said,

      June 4, 2014 at 1:56 am

      Yes by ‘we’ I simply meant universal consensus.

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