How to Write a Poem That Rhymes in the ABC Style
Mention poetry, and people often think of rhyming poems. Though poems do not need to rhyme, the ones that do often identify more strongly as poetry. Writing with a specific rhyming pattern, such as ABC, can be a challenge. However, using rhyme gives you the benefit of deepening the meaning of the poem, strengthening its form and giving pleasure to your reader's ear.
Rhyming occurs when the endings of two words sound the same, as they do in "free" and "sea." Rhyme scheme refers to the pattern of rhyming that comes at the end of lines within a stanza; the pattern is marked with letters, one for each rhyme. As such, for an ABC-rhyming poem, the first three lines do not rhyme; however, line four rhymes with one, line five with two and line six with three. This pattern repeats throughout the poem.
For purposes of rhyme scheme, you can use a true rhyme or slant rhyme. With slant or "off-rhyme," poets normally use consonance, meaning the words end in the same consonant sound -- think "lake," "book" and "back" -- while the vowel sounds do not match. Once you've chosen a topic and brainstormed for inspiration, try writing out the first three lines, making sure they do not rhyme. That done, brainstorm a list of words that rhyme with the words that end each line. You can produce many of these on your own, but rhyming dictionaries and websites such as Rhyme Zone are useful tools. Don't forget to experiment with slant rhymes for different effects.
One standard poetic form that often utilizes the ABC rhyme scheme is the ballad. Ballads are a lyrical form of poetry characterized by the narration of a dramatic story. For example, Samuel Taylor Coleridge's epic ballad "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" tells the story of a ship lost at sea. Ballads usually consist of four-line stanzas called quatrains. Coleridge's epic also follows an ABCB rhyme scheme within each quatrain, giving unity to a long poem. In ballads, the quatrains stand alone, meaning lines from one stanza do not necessarily have to rhyme with lines from another stanza. To attempt this specific poetic form, think of current events or other real-life dramas as your topic.
Barring ballads, rhyming poems do not have to be only about certain topics; Elizabeth Bishop, for instance, waxes poetic about a gas station in "The Filling Station." Choose a topic about which you are well-versed, making the writing process easier. Don't focus on sounding "poetic" in the beginning, though. Instead, concentrate on expressing your insights in a unique way, as Bishop does in observing the family who lives at the filling station. Once you have a rough draft of the poem, go back and revise it. Mechanical problems are not the main concern; approach the poem as a fresh reader and evaluate its fluency and precision. For an ABC rhyming style, revise at this stage for word choice, evaluating your true rhymes and perhaps substituting slant rhymes for variation.
Nadia Archuleta has a B.A. in English writing. She spent five years working abroad and has traveled extensively. She has worked as an English as a Foreign/Second Language teacher for 12 years.