How to Write a Slant Poem

A slant poem is one that uses "slant" or "approximate" rhymes, either internally -- within the line of the poem -- or at the line's end.

Consider this example:

"I love her and I'll make her mine // but I can't make her poem rhyme."

"Mine" and "rhyme" are approximate or slant rhymes. They do not rhyme, but they're close to rhyming.

A slant poem is one that uses "slant" or "approximate" rhymes. For example, "Mine" and "Rhyme" are slant rhymes.

1. Create Traditional Rhymes

Writing a slant poem takes several steps for newcomers to poetry-writing, and even well-established poets need these word exercises from time to time. The first step is to create as many full rhymes as one can think of, written only as single words together: "flat/mat," "God/odd," "boat/float" and so on; would-be writers should be able to create at least a dozen or so of these.

Create a dozen or so single word rhymes

flat / mat

God / odd

boat / float

single / tingle

ball / tall

owl / towel

one / won

four / roar

right / height

hot / not

hook / look

blew / blue

2. Create Simple Poems

The second step is to create simple poems, either in single internally-rhymed lines or couplets, using the created pairings: "I feel that God/Must be quite odd."

There should be a poem created for each pairing. This allows amateur poets to become comfortable with full rhyming and gives experts an excellent "free-writing" experience.

3. Create Slants

The third step is to substitute an approximate rhyme for a full rhyme, using the already-completed pairings. This can be done either with ​consonant repetition​ -- repeating end letters of words -- or ​alliteration​ -- repeating first letters:

"God/bad"

"flat/flute"

"boat/caught."

4. Finally, rework as couplets or entire poems

Finally, the poet takes these new creations and reworks them as couplets or even entire poems, combining them with true rhymes for the best effect:

If God is God

then God is odd;

if God is God

then God is bad.

Take Him even

take Him Odd;

If I'm not God

then I'm not bad.

These are the "how" steps to writing slant poetry; the poet should also consider the "why" of slanting.

Who Uses Slants?

The best source to answer "why" is the most famous poet to consistently use slant poetry, ​Emily Dickinson​, whose poetry was rejected outright upon its initial publication precisely because her rhymes were not exact.

In fact, numerous editors sought to "correct" Dickinson by rewriting her work to manufacture true rhymes. These corrupted versions are gone, and the poet's original poetic forms are available everywhere.

Dickinson used slants for several reasons: she wanted to startle the reader's sensibilities, she wanted to encourage one to see unlike things in comparison and on occasion she simply seems to have felt like it.

Most frequently, however, her slants aim at personifying an abstraction with a concrete image, as in the work she simply called "Poem 1260," aka "Because that you are going," where she rhymes "he besides concedes," a concrete action, with "confiscated Gods." The line in context presents God as agreeing to the human worship of other things, an unreality rendered brilliantly real.

Poem 1260 by Emily Dickinson

Because that you are going

And never coming back

And I, however absolute

May overlook your Track -

Because that Death is final,

However first it be

This instant be suspended

Above Mortality -

Significance that each has lived

The other to detect

Discovery not God himself

Could now annihilate

Eternity, Presumption

The instant I perceive

That you, who were Existence

Yourself forgot to live -

The "Life that is" will then have been

A thing I never knew -

As Paradise fictitious

Until the Realm of you -

The "Life that is to be," to me,

A Residence too plain

Unless in my Redeemer's Face

I recognize your own -

Of Immortality who doubts

He may exchange with me

Curtailed by your obscuring Face

Of everything but He -

Of Heaven and Hen I also yield

The Right to reprehend

To whoso would commute this Face

For his less priceless Friend.

If "God is Love" as he admits

We think that he must be

Because he is a "jealous God"

He tells us certainly

If "All is possible with" him

As he besides concedes

He will refund us finally

Our confiscated Gods-