Sunday Poem: To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme?

2001-l-odyssee-de-l-espace

After writing my first ever poem, Autumn in rhyming couplets, I discovered a bit later that poems didn’t have to rhyme at all, which made things a lot easier. Three cheers for free verse! It was also possible to write poems about anything, as long as you made them opaque enough for no one to have the faintest clue what they might mean.

In the grunts of inarticulate stars

Bearing the spark of however

Into the night of ignorance and wonder

The epitome of marrow.

That one was inspired by the opening scene in 2001 Space Odyssey. It was about prehistoric cavemen discovering the taste of cooked meat. Not many people got that. The English teacher, Mr. Roberts, certainly didn’t, though he was too polite to say so and he didn’t want to cause any embarrassment by asking me to explain it. Eventually, though, it occurred to me that if I was writing a dozen poems a day with amazing ease, and looking back over them a week later couldn’t remember what they meant myself, then maybe they weren’t poems at all. Maybe they were drivel. There was also, I realised, a fine line between a poet and a pseud, and one or two people, alerted to the distinction by Private Eye (pseud in those days was a popular term of abuse for anyone pretentious or even vaguely intellectual), appeared to be catching on that I’d crossed it. So after a while, I went back to rhymes.

The thing about poetry is that it’s incredibly difficult to write. And the apparent ease of free verse is illusory because “no verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job” (T.S.Eliot). On the other hand, rhyming verse is equally difficult, and less fashionable, as pointed out here by the poet Andy Humphrey. Which is why, on the whole, I stick these days to prose.

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7 thoughts on “Sunday Poem: To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme?

    • Thank you. Yes, Eliot’s my favourite poet in fact, but he knew how difficult poetry is:
      “So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years –
      Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l’entre deux guerres
      Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt
      Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
      Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
      For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
      One is no longer disposed to say it.”

      Liked by 1 person

  1. That’s the basic difference between pure Wordsworthian poetry and the modern poetry with the maxim: anything goes any which way in a poetic prose or a prose-like poem! When you start to pour out your sincere heartfelt thoughts it all comes out in poetry or prose form depending upon the intensity of your feelings. Carry on penning and you will find your style as you continue posting your thoughts through the journey of life – good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

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