Skip to main content

To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme — That Is the Question

Merriam-Webster defines poetry as verbiage chosen and arranged to affect the reader emotionally through rhythm and sound. It also notes that writing other than what is normally viewed as poetry can be likened to it if the beauty of expression is particularly moving. I like that expanded definition.

Poems come in numerous shapes, sizes, and forms. Let's examine a few.

Blank verse doesn't rhyme; but its carefully structured, precise rhythm typically follows a duh DUH, duh DUH, duh DUH, duh DUH, duh DUH pattern — known as iambic pentameter. Enough said. 

Less structured free verse lacks the rhythm, rhyme, and musical lilt of its blank verse cousin. Simply stated, it isn't encumbered by strict rules but still qualifies as poetry.

Epic poems, lengthy (book length) tales depicting the lives and times of characters from the past, include Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey and Longfellow's Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie, as well as numerous other long works. The similar narrative poems such as Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and Longfellow's "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" also tell a story but are generally not book length.

Sonnets, 14-line poems often but not always about love, may include internal rhymes and be written in iambic pentameter or another format. Among the most famous are Shakespeare's sonnets.

A five-line, single stanza poem, called a limerick, has an AABBA rhyming pattern and may be humorous. Many moons ago when I was a sophomore in high school, I was reading poetry rather than paying attention in geometry class. I came across the poem below and nearly fell out of my chair laughing. (Please overlook my teenage sense of humor.) 

I sat by a duchess at tea,
Embarrassed as I could be;
Her rumblings abdominal
Were something phenomenal,
And the guests all thought it was me.

Numerous other forms of poetry exist, but the last one we'll touch on here is the most familiar: rhymed poetry. Although rhyming patterns vary, that commonality identifies most works in this category. Many personal favorites come from my school years and include "Trees" by Joyce Kilmer, Rudyard Kipling's "If", "Daffodils" by William Wordsworth, and my all-time favorite, "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe. The rhyming pattern in this Poe work really speaks to me.

Have you ever written poetry? Do you have any favorite poems? Have you ever read a passage in a novel that reminded you of poetry?

Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while maintaining her editing work. Her novels lean toward the literary category because they are character driven rather than plot driven, but their quick pace reminds the reader of genre fiction. Watch for new cozies to be released soon. You can contact her through her websites: and


  1. I do love The Raven, even though poetry is just not my thing. :D


Post a Comment

The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. If a glitch is preventing you from commenting, visit our Facebook page and drop your wise words there: Blood-Red Pencil on Facebook