Thursday, April 16, 2009

Rhyme and Reason


I have been fairly successful in selling rhyme to children's magazines in spite of the fact that I don’t know a dactyl from a dinosaur, or an iambic from a ball point pen. I can’t get a handle on stresses and feet. Writing poetry is serious business but that’s no reason not to give it a try.

As a child I memorized every rhyme I heard. I guess I developed an ear for children’s rhymes. All of my rhymes haven't been winners but many have. On the way to getting published I have picked up a few tips, but trust me I have more to learn.

It is helpful to count syllables. Every line of your poem doesn’t have to be the same count, but there should be a repeating pattern, such as 8-8-8-8, or 8-6-8-6, etc. It sounds more pleasing.

#1 I love carrots, crunchy, crispy. (8)
Pretty leaves are fernlike, wispy. (8)
I can’t eat the leaves but funny, (8)
I can feed them to my bunny. (8)


#2 The sunshine chases cold away, (8)
And melts the winter snow. (6)
It warms the earth and wakes the seeds (8)
So they can sprout and grow. (6)

Rhyme should follow a scheme of rhymed and unrhymed lines. These are often expressed as letters of the alphabet. Poem #1 is AABB while #2 is ABCB, but there are many different rhyme patterns. Experiment and see which you like best. Study the poetry of others.

A poem should tell a story. It should stir feelings. It should have a beginning, middle and end. Rhymes for children are often playful or humorous.

A rhyme should rhyme, not just almost rhyme. Don’t try to force a rhyme. Do you live in an area where your regional accent might corrupt your poetry? Have your rhyme checked by someone from a different area. Online critique groups are very good for this because often the members are scattered all over the country.

Keep your poetry lean and trim. Sometimes a poem rattles on because you can’t find just the right word to say what you want to say. Don’t fill in with lines that don’t really add meaning to the story. It is better to wait for the right word rather than ramble on endlessly.

If rhyme is your thing, buy one or two rhyming dictionaries, and check out those you can access online.

Last but not least, read your poetry aloud. I recommend a small tape recorder so that you can play it back. This is a good tool for checking the readability of your work. Another good tool is to have someone else read your poem to you. If they stumble something is off. Maybe listening to someone else will help you recognize a problem.

Writing rhyme is fun. Give it a try. Maybe it will put some rhythm in your writing.


Jack Foster said...

Great advice Shari....makes me want to "try" to write a poem. Lot's of good incite. Thanks

Margaret Fieland said...

Great advice, Shari. I have been writing rhyme for years and while I do own several rhyming dictionaries (and have a site or two online bookmarked), I rarely use them as I have developed my own algorithm for generating rhymes. I make *far* greater use of my thesaurus and the online thesaurus sites I have bookmarked. Finding the right word is vital in poetry, as indeed it is in all writing.