‘Fundamentally, rhyme is dangerous in poetry!’
I have had several animated conversations with my good friend Huw Evans about the pros and cons of rhyme in poetry. On the whole, The pros have come from me, the cons from Huw. I recognise that it is hard for me to approach this objectively when my favourite artform, rap, is synoymous with this particular poetic device. To rap is to rhyme. I was never going to roll over on this one.
However, even with that bias, over the years, Huw has talked to me round when it comes to rhyme and written poetry and he has very helpfully put together a simple little video outlining his beef with rhyming and justifying such extreme statements as the one quoted above. It’s here, and it’ll take a mere 5 minutes of your time…
If you’ve made it to this paragraph without watching the video, I’ll give you a taster, before you scroll up again. Huw’s basic argument goes like this. Rhyme clearly has a function in poetry but it can cause more problems than it solves, especially when it comes to ‘meandering meaning and mangled syntax’. Poets should resist the urge for the easy rhyme, and if they find their meaning being driven by the rhyme, or it leading to a particularly ‘grotesque word order’, they should search harder for a different rhyme or change the phrase they’re trying to rhyme with. In short, a decent rule of thumb is:
‘If… a rhyme seems to be taking away from the meaning or needs a weird word ordering, get rid of it!’
With all that said, though, if you’d like some balance to the argument, or perhaps, like me, if you have such a connection to sonic symmetry in your lyrical diet, that all of this anti-rhyme talk makes you feel slightly uneasy, let’s end with something to restore your faith in ryhme. In short, kids, be careful of rhyme unless you can rhyme like this 😉
Huw is releasing a poetry collection in late Spring, which Sputnik is supporting as part of our Patrons Scheme, to hear more from Huw about his work or to find out more about the patronage, check out the Sputnik Patrons page.
Jonny Mellor is a rapper, a writer, and the director of Sputnik.