10 Reasons Poems Don’t Always Need to Rhyme

ezra-poundWhile the traditional view of formal poetry includes a very strict rhyme scheme that must be adhered to, the free verse style popularized by the great Ezra Pound largely eschews rhyme schemes altogether, instead relying on the power of the words themselves to paint a vivid portrait of the poet’s feelings. Free verse has become so widely accepted by publishers of modern poetry, in fact, that some won’t even entertain submissions of formal poetry. These are ten of the reasons why it’s okay to break the traditional mold in your own poetry, opting instead for something a bit less rigid.

  1. Free Verse is More Readily Published – If your dreams of being a published poet trump your desire to write classical poetry, you’re more likely to find success with free verse poems. So many modern publishers prefer or even require free verse that you’re more likely to struggle in terms of finding a publisher if all of your work rhymes.
  2. Rhyming Poetry Can Be Associated With Nursery Rhymes – Though there are plenty of mature, heartfelt and sincere masterpieces in the realm of classic poetry that adhere to a prescribed rhyme scheme, it’s also the chosen form of children’s poems and nursery rhymes. If your subject matter is more mature, free verse may be more readily accepted.
  3. Avoiding Predictability – There are only so many words in the English language that rhyme properly. Working within the constraints of a classic rhyme scheme naturally lends a bit of predictability to your work that might be missing in less structured styles.
  4. A Display of Unrestrained Emotion – It’s not always easy to convey truly passionate emotion when you’re working within a rigid construct, so poets with a fondness for high drama or a tendency towards more belletristic sentiments may find that free verse better suits their needs.
  5. They’re Translations – A poem that rhymes in the poet’s native tongue isn’t likely to work well as an English translation if rhyme is an issue, one of the reasons why Spanish poet Pablo Neruda’s work rhymes in its original form but is free verse in English translation.
  6. To Maintain Proper Flow – Struggling to find a rhyming word while keeping to the desired vocal rhythm can be a challenge. When every syllable counts, it may be more effective to steer away from rhymes and phonemes.
  7. Maintaining Sincerity – Portraying an element of sincere feeling or opinion requires a certain amount of freedom in some cases, freedom that isn’t always available within classic or formal poetry styles. If you’re more dedicated to the sincerity of your work than classical acceptance, there’s no reason why you should force yourself to rhyme and sacrifice that sincerity in the process.
  8. To Adhere to the Meaning of the Poem – In order to find a word that rhymes so that a classic scheme is possible, poets may be forced to alter the message or meaning of their work ever so slightly. In some cases, the idea of compromising the emotion in order to rhyme simply isn’t acceptable to a poet, so he opts for free verse instead.
  9. Avoiding Awkwardness – Some truly beautiful marvels of the written word have been executed in the classic rhyme scheme of a more formally-styled poem. There have, however, been far more awkward and contrived works that suffered largely due to the poet’s insistence on rhyming. It’s very easy to cross the line from “artistic” to “clumsy” with classical poetry.
  10. Preventing Distraction – When the rhymes of a poem are forced, the reader’s attention can be fixed more upon the device than the feeling the poet is trying to convey. One surefire way to avoid the distraction factor that’s so easily present in rhyming works is to simply choose the lack of constraint and rhyming requirements that come with free verse.

While free verse is more widely published and appreciated by many modern poetry publishers, it is still necessary for those attempting to emulate classical styles to work within the prescribed rhyme schemes, meter and structure of those styles. It’s certainly true that not all poems have to rhyme, but those who are striving for classical acceptance are still beholden to the formal rules.