Why Are Rhythm & Rhyme Important in Poems?

Rhyme and rhythm in poetry can bring the same connected feelings as music.

Rhythm is quite literally the heartbeat of a poem and serves as the backdrop from which the ideas and imagery can flow. Rhyme is the musicality behind the words and the way the phrases come together. These two elements represent the framework of poems and the techniques that set poetry apart from other English prose and creative writing.

Rhythm

Rhythm creates the pattern of language in a line of a poem, marked by the number of syllables and the stressed and unstressed syllables in the words. A poetic meter is achieved when the lines of the poem follow a regular pattern. A foot in poetry refers to a stressed syllable or unstressed syllable, and meter counts the number of feet in a line.

The most famous rhythm is iambic pentameter, which is found in most of William Shakespeare's writing. The word iamb means the foot is in the pattern of unstressed/stressed, and pentameter means there are five feet, or sets of syllables, in each line.

Why is Rhythm Important?

Rhythm is essential to poetry because it is a mirror of life. Nature expects a rhythm, as evidenced by the change from day to night, or the order of the seasons. This contributes to the pleasure of the reader; rhythm is what we expect from music, from nature, and certainly from poetry. Cacophony opposes rhythm, and is abrupt to the ear. The poetic form is very important in creative writing and English poetry and poets use it very strategically.

Rhyme

Rhyme is the matching up of sounds and syllables, usually at the end of lines, called end rhyme. The pattern of rhyme is chosen by the poets with specific intent. External rhyme is the rhyming of words at the end of lines. Slant rhyme is where the rhyme scheme is more distant and imperfect. Masculine rhyme is where a rhyme between the final stressed syllables of two lines. A couplet refers to a two-line rhyming stanza. Alliteration and assonance are other poetic devices used to create rhythm and rhyme – they are the repetition of the same consonant or vowel sounds.

Shel Silverstein's poetry is a great example of rhyming words and rhyme schemes. And "The Raven," by Edgar Allan Poe, incorporates internal rhyme in "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary." This means that two words rhyme within the same line, in this case dreary and weary.

Why is Rhyme Important?

Rhyme functions in much the same way as rhythm – rhyming words are important in helping to shape the rhythm of the poem. It keeps the poem in harmony, and a rhyme scheme helps the audience to understand what is coming. It's important to remember that lines rhyme for a reason.

Rhyme scheme can be figured out by looking at the last word in each line and assigning a letter. The last word in the first line gets an "a." The last word in the second line, if it rhymes, also gets an "a." If a word does not rhyme, it gets the next letter, "b" in this case. Thus, the rhyme scheme could be "abab" or "abba" among other examples.

Discerning the rhyme scheme is important because the pattern brings the poem to life and helps the audience feel connected.

Note

Free verse refers to when poems don't adhere to a strict rhythm or rhyming patterns. The decision by a poet to write in free verse is intentional and poets use free verse to give a very specific feeling to the reader.

Poetry is an important way to express the English language, from limericks to haikus, from William Shakespeare to Emily Dickinson. Stressed syllables and rhyming words are used by every poet to emphasize their creative writing and evoke specific feelings in their readers. Whether reading poetry or doing spoken word, rhythm and rhyme are essential.