Forcing Rhymes in Poetry

A look at what forcing rhymes in poetry does to your work and how to overcome doing it.

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Forcing a rhyme in poetry is one of the worst things you can do when writing a poem. Rhymes can elevate a poem, tie different lines together and introduce a rhythm that strengthens the work greatly. They can also ruin it just as easily.

When you force a rhyming pattern, such as AABBCC, you can very easily write yourself into a position where you come up with a great line that works really well, only it won’t rhyme with anything else. It’s at this juncture where you may be tempted to force a rhyme that makes little sense, or even make up a word to stick to your rhyming pattern.

I wrote a poem forcing as many of the rhymes as I could. I think it demonstrates quite nicely the effect that forcing a rhyme that doesn’t belong can have.

There Was a Man Called Jim

There was a man called Jim,
He couldn’t swim,
I suck at poetry,
This doesn’t even rhyme.

But, wait,
Poetry doesn’t have to rhyme,
Not all the time,
Maybe I don’t suck after all,
You can catch fish with bait.

Any poem is beautiful,
Apart from this one,
I’m making this up as I go,
Typing on my phone,
I miss playing the fool.

This poem doesn’t make any sense,
At least I have a few pence,
Can I call myself a poet?
I have a lawn, I’d like to mow it.

Poems don’t have to rhyme,
I’d like to eat a lime,
Poetry comes from the heart,
Not a thesaurus,
Good luck rhyming with thesaurus,
I’m gonna stop this now,
End it with a pow,
This poem is aurous.

But what do you do if you find yourself in that situation? If you want to keep the rhyming in then there are different words that you can use, or perhaps a different line structure that you could use so that you can keep the rhyme and keep the point that the poem is trying to make.

Sometimes, changing the first word in the rhyming pair so that it fits with the second can improve the poem overall, it doesn’t always but you can look at it. Choose the latter word and rhyme the first with it, almost writing the poem backwards. Or cut out lots of pairs of rhyming words and lay them out on a desk. Move things around. Looking at your poem differently often helps.

But there will be times when you can’t make it work, so you either abandon your original plan, or you dump a random word in there that doesn’t fit. Like rhyming ‘thesaurus’ with ‘aurous’. Or rhyming it with the same word, or a homophone of the word.

If you find yourself at that crossroad, I’d strongly advice changing your original plan. Your poem will thank you for it.

David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.

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