While Ezra Pound is largely credited with starting the free verse poetry movement that created more relaxed style requirements and eliminated the wide-spread use of formal poetry, there are still plenty of aficionados out there who firmly believe that all poetry should rhyme. These are ten of the reasons they use to support their argument, and reasons why some believe that rhyming poetry is far superior to its free-verse brethren.
- Establishing Structure and Rhythm – The placement of rhyming words and the establishment of structure, meter and vocal rhythm in a poem can significantly affect the way it sounds when read aloud. Fans of the formal rhyming styles insist that rhymes are necessary in terms of establishing rhythm.
- Assisting in Memorization – One of the reasons why many early poems were penned with rhyme schemes can be traced back to low literacy rates and the desire to memorize verses. Those who couldn’t read poems were still able to recite them, due to the memory-sparking power of rhyming words.
- Adhering to Style Guidelines – Formal styles of poetry dictate not only the number of lines and the number of syllables within those lines, but also a strict rhyme scheme that must be adhered to. In order to create classic, formal poetry, a poet must write verses that rhyme.
- Creating Symmetry – Symmetry among the verses of a poem can rely largely upon the way that a rhyme scheme is created by the poet. For this reason alone, some poetry purists refuse to entertain the notion of unstructured, asymmetrical free verse.
- Appealing to Younger Audiences – Kids are wild about poems that rhyme, making the creation of works that rhyme a wise literary and career move for poets hoping to appeal to a younger audience. From helping kids remember the words to their favorite verses to making it fun for them to recite, rhyming words are a cornerstone of kids’ poetry.
- Appealing to Older Audiences – Though it was established more than a century ago, there’s something about the wild-eyed, unrestrained emotion of free verse that makes it more suited to young adults’ fancies than more settled adults. As a result, poetry collections marketed at the senior citizen audience almost always feature works with a defined rhyme scheme.
- Carrying On a Grand Tradition – The works of greats like Emily Dickinson and William Shakespeare rhymed, and there are those who believe that carrying on that grand tradition has far more artistic merit than more relaxed, informal free verse.
- Rising to a Challenge – Managing to adhere to formal poetry styles with an established rhyme scheme while remaining true to the inspiration behind the work of art without penning a contrived, forced or awkward poem is a very real challenge. For those who value such a challenge, rhyming work is the only way to go.
- Lightening the Mood – Humorous poems, like limericks, often rely upon the clever turn of phrase and wordplay that comes with rhyming. Though it is certainly possible to write a serious, heartfelt poem with a classic rhyme scheme, it’s much more difficult to convey humor with free verse.
- Fulfilling an Artistic Vision – Just as some visual artists work exclusively in a particular medium, so do some poets. Those who are dedicated to traditional, formal styles as part of their own artistic vision work exclusively within those bounds, eschewing free verse altogether.
Despite adherents like the Queen’s English Society, which demands that all poetry rhyme in order to be recognized as such, most poetry publishers balk at printing formal, rhyming poetry. In fact, the submission guidelines of some of the more popular poetry publications clearly state that rhyming poetry will not be considered. If you don’t plan to publish the poems you write, these ten reasons are more than enough to justify a refusal to write free verse poetry.