Rhyme's No Crime...

Rhyme’s No Crime!  Photo by  Denis Oliveira  on  Unsplash

Rhyme’s No Crime!
Photo by Denis Oliveira on Unsplash

It took me until I was fifty-nine to use the term ‘rhymer’ and acknowledge I am less ‘poet’ and more ‘Darcy Jones with rhyme in her bones’.

A rhymer? The Free Dictionary sullies the joy of being one when it says, ‘a writer who composes rhymes; a maker of poor verses (usually used as terms of contempt for minor or inferior poets) poetiser, poetizer, rhymester, versifier. author, writer - writes (books or stories or articles or the like) professionally (for pay)’ - It’s a singularly unappealing definition!

www.yourdictionary.com keeps it simple and sweeter:

‘Rhymer: One who composes rhymes.’

I don’t deny that rhyme or poetry written for money can be inferior. Once I tried to write a guide book about exceptionally good tearooms, composing a poem about each of them. I chose carefully but my heart was in the potential financial reward. The project was a spectacular failure, and the only poems with any merit were the two which were not about tearooms at all. Lesson learned!

Nevertheless, linking ‘rhymer’ to reward and inferior writing is misleading and inaccurate.

Paradoxically, when I’m commissioned it raises my bar, especially when the brief and time frame is tight. The financial reward – for me – pales against the ability of the work to touch, transform and delight. Creative work of merit can’t be generated without integrity or authenticity, the reward is always in the making.

Reconciling a father to his son in a poem recited at his birthday party, wrapping a client’s ethos in one verse which instantly speaks to her website visitors – what price can we put on these? And rhyme: simple, accessible, speaks to the child in us who has an innate sense of fun (usually squashed out of us by adulthood), taking us down the garden path without us being aware of it until we arrive breathless at a new destination. Rhyme gets me every time...

Why is that similar sounds make us happy, what is it about a tum-ti-tum which commits words to memory effortlessly? These are matters we’ll consider in depth in The Music Room, the School Room and, of course, in Poets’ Corner.

In the meantime, can we simultaneously clarify that a ‘rhymer’ is someone who writes (mainly) in rhyme and put it on an equal footing with other writing and chanting professions? Let’s give them all equal space and recognise you can have good and bad poets, rappers, spoken word artists, lyricists, rhymers and even ditty-writers…

In terms of creation for me, the rhyme and rhythm usually arrive together.

I regularly wake up with a rhyme in my head, or it arrives when I’m making the bed, or I find there’s a beat and I’m being led, with rhyme after rhyme it’s as if I am fed, by a stream of short syllables needing to talk, all I have to do is to type as they walk, over the screen while they have their fun. Then the rhythm says stop, and a ditty is done!

While we’re challenging the literati, I’d like to respond to these two judgements:

  • That rhyme should be confined to, or be written for ‘little people’. Bullshit.
    I’m with Walter de la Mare again here. He didn’t like to limit the ages his poems and those he included in his anthology were for. And this prolific poet writes in the notes to ‘Come Hither’ about one of the many jingles included, ‘This jingle is one of hundreds of nursery or dandling rhymes… Compared with more formal poems they are like the least (and loveliest) of the wild flowers – pimpernel, eyebright, thyme, woodruff, and others even tinier, even quieter, but revealing their own private and complete little beauty if looked at closely.’

    Don’t you love the phrase ‘dandling rhymes’? It means rhymes which are used when a baby is affectionately moved up and down in one’s arms or on one’s knees! Expect to find some dandling rhymes in the Nursery!

  • That simple one syllable rhymes like dog/slog etc are LAZY…
    Hmm… In that case we will have to brand an awful lot of early poets, like Chaucer, John Donne, not to mention Shakespeare as inveterate sluggards. I am constantly delighted by the pristine bare clarity of the mono-syllable. The bare bones of the English language, endlessly repeated seem to have something in common with nature. They are ‘the commons’ of the writer. Go on, read this list: love, dove, death, breath, die, sky, high, why, hood, good, wood, coo, who, new, twit woo! There seem to be secret patterns in the sounds. One day I may even study them and find a strange hidden thread…

Is it possible that part of the subconscious appeal of rhyme is the listener or reader’s sense of being in on the creative act? We sense instinctively which rhyme is pushing to end a sentence and although we’re occasionally surprised, the real delight is when it’s exactly what we thought it was doing to be. We’re rhymers too!

Which brings us to the best way to enjoy rhyme, which is not LOL but ROL: Read Out Loud.

There is no audio track on this post unless you go to my Extinction Rebellion Echo Chamber, and its here in text to read out loud below. Why not write a rhyming response? Tell me what you’ve found, or share your verse below in the comments.

Burn Out (rhymes with No Doubt)

Profane (rhymes with pain, insane
and cut-and-come-again)
necessary to their waxing, moons must wane

I pick up the alphabet of full responsibility -
tinder lit by acceptance of those neighbours ‘boss’ and ‘cross’
and the dross and loss
gold of being at the crux
(rhymes with flux and fucks)
turn flaccid (rhymes with placid)

my fire is doused
’though there’s no doubt it’s raging uncontrollably without
while deep within I feel the quiet yearning
drawn up from underneath and the heat of all this burning
tiny, tender ferning soft and green but felt
(rhymes with melt and smelt)
long forgotten, yet returning.

With thanks and acknowledgement to Dark Mountain Issue 15 - this poem is my response.

When you read out loud you really inhabit a poem – or, rather, it inhabits you. Your whole being absorbs it as you breathe in between the sounds (we only speak on the out breath). The poem travels round your blood in your oxygen. Blank or free verse seems more inclined to get stuck in our heads…
— Pearl's Pearl

Our four corner-stones are now in place. It’s time to pour in the hard core – only it couldn’t be any softer…

going all soft and tender yet?