The Compulsion to Repeat Sounds

C. Dale linked to this article, in which a self-professed life-long lover of poetry laments the reduction of poets writing what he calls "rhyming verse."

It always irritates me when I hear this discussion, not because I think rhyming is lame, but because people are obsessed with repetition when it comes to rhyme. And they want the nursery rhyme meter, too, because it's soothing.

Am I being overly critical of patterned rhyme? I will admit that it is difficult to do well, but that done well, it's an interesting (and significant) element of a poem. However, like in free verse, there are hundreds upon thousands of practitioners who do not understand how to incorporate patterned rhyme into their work effectively.

I think it's also just as egregeous to refuse to look beyond rhymed verse. Any of us who limit our experiences of literature are not being responsible readers.

But then again—is it wrong to thank him for reading in the first place?


  1. Yes, we should thank Mr. Kilpatrick for reading poetry. First things first. But then onto equally important things.

    Patterned rhyme, when done well (to further the meaning of a poem, to call specific attention to tradition & what to do--or not do--with it, for irony's sake, etc., & done in such a way that meaningfully calls attention to itself, or when it goes nearly unnoticed, as I find is often the case with Thom Gunn, for example) is just that, rhyme done well. It's difficult not to slip into cliches or silliness, which is why I applaud any poet who can do it & not fall into either of those holes.

    I'm with you on patterned rhyme. It's something some of us shy away from because it so easily steals the scene, & not for reasons we find too respectable, interesting, or compelling. That said, there's something to be said for reading a poem you might otherwise not, for the sake of breaking out of established default poetic routines. If nothing else, we'll be the better for it.

  2. Nah, the crusty old throwbacks need not be thanked for their jackassery. Simic's books aren't exactly hard to find, and if Kilpatrick hasn't kept up with poetry it's his own damn fault. I, for one, am tired of seeing the poetry I love blamed from America's withering literacy.

  3. If it rhymes it better be off the chain brilliant. I don't want the rhyme scheme to distract from the poem. Patricia Smith's "Hip Hop Ghazal" in Poetry is brilliant in the way she uses the word hip and yet it never becomes boring or cliched.

  4. Vanna White's job is in danger!
    i have no idea what im saying.

  5. The only time I dabble with rhyme is when writing a villanelle. Rhyme can be dangerous waters.... it annoys when I am reading a poem with rhyme and I know what word is coming to complete a rhyme.