Poetry Part 2: Rhyme and meter aka Rhythm and Rhyme

Words have rhythm when spoken and when we’re rhyming it’s not always the last syllable that makes the rhyme work.  

Eons ago, when I was working on a solo for ‘State Solo and Ensemble Festival’ my flute teacher talked me through the music.  He put words to it that would help me keep the rhythm.  It wasn’t lyrical wording, it was more… mechanical but because of it- I can always make my triplets even – I can still remember him saying ‘|: triplet, triplet, triplet… 😐 ‘

The mnemonic he chose used the words, meaning… and rhythm to convey the message and to this day, whenever I’m going over music and see triplets, I start singing to myself, “Triplet, triplet, half-note, half-note… whole…”

You want your poetry to do the same thing.  You want people to hear the lines long after they’ve read or heard the poem.  You want it to haunt them, to call to them long afterwards… and that involves striking the right chord on multiple levels.

It’s odd for me to be talking about rhyme since I am the least rhyming poet I know– but as I said, its like any good artwork – it’s layers upon layers, creating something that delights the senses, challenges the mind, and calls to the reader on a primal level.

Rhyme is one of the building blocks, and if you get into the more challenging ‘puzzle’ poetry (such as a sonnet) it’s very important.  One thing to keep in mind is the fact that rhyming can be just the last syllable, or it can involve several- and if you are using rhythm/meter and rhyme together you need to make sure the rhyme fits the meter.

It’s why rhyming dictionaries offer you a break down by syllable counts for rhymes, near rhymes, similar sounding words and in some cases synonyms so that if you don’t like the available rhymes,  you can perhaps replace words in the couplet so you can find a rhyme to your liking.

It’s an odd balance, but that is part of the challenge of poetry and lyrics and even lyrical prose if you think about it.  The right words are out there if you can find them.

One of my favorite ‘in process’ poems was simple and cute… and for the life of me– I could not get the rhyme for the last line.  A friend filled in the blank, but I’ve never felt right about using it, even though its the perfect fit for the poem.

I heard my song the other night
The one I wrote for you
It took me years to get it right
and when it was done I knew
it was the best I could ever do
Year, I heard my song last night…

And for over three years- that’s where the poem stayed… lost for the lack of a final line.  Until my friend added:

(Where the hell were you?)

It’s not the best of poems– but that last line… Oh how I wish I’d written that last line, because it makes the poem last and, by making the reader laugh, makes them more likely to remember it.

And that’s what poetry is really about.

May 9, 2014

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