Poetry Rhyme Techniques

The Purdue Online Writing Lab compares poetry to music -- if meter breaks the poem into bits of time, then sound and rhyme create a poem’s melody. Poetry, especially formal styles, tends to rely heavily on rhyme, and even free verse might employ rhyme as a means of calling attention to particular lines. By examining the way words sound and relate to each other, you can implement different types of rhyme in your poetry to give it a musical feel.

Rhyme Scheme

If you write formal poetry, you most likely must follow a set rhyme scheme, or the repetition of rhyme throughout a poem. For example, the Petrarchan sonnet style begins with the rhyme scheme ABBA ABBA and ends with CDCDCD. Rhyme schemes often indicate end rhymes, or a rhyme used as the last word of a line. While this rhyming device is the most common, interior, internal or leonine rhymes include rhyming words within a line.

Types of Rhyme

Poets use many types of rhyme. Perfect rhyme refers to words that aurally match with each other. Masculine rhyme involves words that end with the same single-syllable vowel and consonant combination, such as “fire” and “desire,” while feminine rhymes have two syllables that correspond with each other, such as “profession” and “session.” Feminine rhyme also typically has a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable. Trisyllabic rhyme lives up to its name and has three syllables that coordinate with each other, such as “fearfully” and “tearfully.”

Close, But No Cigar

Some rhymed words are not perfect, but rather these words sound similar but don’t exactly match each other. These rhymes are often called slant, imperfect, near or half rhymes. For example, “moved” and “loved” sound similar and end with the same consonant sound, but the “O” sound in each doesn’t quite fit each other. An eye, or visual rhyme, involves words that look similar but sound different when spoken aloud, such as “cough” and “bough.” A trailing or semi-rhyme is used often to soften a masculine rhyme and adds an extra unstressed syllable to one of the words. For example, “finger” is a trailing rhyme to “ring.”

Consonants and Vowels

Different parts of a word can match to provide a rhyme. Alliteration involves the repetition of initial consonant sounds, such as “smiles” and “sun.” Consonance occurs when words repeat consonant sounds, such as “art” and “assert.” Assonance refers to words that have only identical vowel sounds, like between “my” and “like.”