When two words have the same end sound, like cat and hat, we say they rhyme. We learn to rhyme words almost as soon as we learn to read. It is one of the ways we first expand our reading vocabulary. Once we know the alphabet and how to read a word like hat, we soon learn that by changing the first letter of that word we can read many more words that sound similar – words like bat, cat, fat, hat, mat, and pat.
Similarly, when we first learn to read and write poetry, we think of rhymes. That is because we first hear poetry in songs, nursery rhymes, and children’s books by authors like Dr. Seuss. Then as we grow older and learn about different kinds of poems like haiku, diamantes, and free verse, we know that poetry doesn’t need to rhyme at al. Still, rhymed poetry has a long history and it can be fun to write, when it is done well. There are three tricks that can help you write wonderful rhymed poetry.
- Rhymed poetry usually has a special rhythm to it called meter. Learning to write in meter can be very difficult unless you have a good ear for it, like some people have a good ear for music. One trick that can help you write good rhymed poetry is to write in lines of the same length. You don’t want some that are very long and others that are short. Try to have the same number of syllables in each line.
- Use a rhyming dictionary to help you come up with interesting and different rhymes. Instead of always rhyming cat with hat, you can find new rhymes like flat or splat or even rhymes with multiple syllables like nonfat or chitchat.
- Try different kinds of rhymes. We’ve been looking at what poets call perfect rhymes – words that end with exactly the same sound. However, poets often use rhymes that are not perfect; they have similar but not exactly the same sounds. For example:
- Half-rhyme – only the last consonants match (bent and ant or door and fur).
- Syllabic rhyme – only the last syllable of the word sounds the same (silver and beaver; pitter and patter).
- Semi-rhyme – one of the words has an extra syllable (send and ending or band and handful).
- Eye rhyme – words that look like they should rhyme, but which are pronounced differently (have and save or rain and again).
So if you want to write really wonderful rhymed poetry, take you time. Try to keep your lines similar in length. Don’t twist sentences around just to get a rhyming word at the end. And don’t always use the first rhyme that pops into your head. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense! Use tools like a thesaurus and a rhyming dictionary to help you “think outside the box.” Experiment and have fun!