Someone has got me ranting about rhyming couplets – I can’t call them anything but doggerel, and hate them with a passion…and I don’t hate anything or anyone but they are vile. Why do newbie writers fall for them? They’re not even attractive. All that shoving words where they don’t belong, twisting sentences out of all recognition makes me want to heave up into the world like some kind of Heaven-sent quake – even though I don’t believe in Heaven!
I critiqued someone’s poem on an online writing site, and mentioned that she might want to move away from rhyming couplets (for the reasons stated above) towards three and four-line rhyming schemes, if rhyme she must. Another writer made a comment that my criticism was too harsh, and perhaps it was, but the reason for the crit was because I saw something in her; if I hadn’t I would never have stopped to comment much less take the time to fashion a critique. He stated that she had posted the work under Simple Rhyme.
Simple Rhyme! What the hell is that? Yes, you would have to be seeing poetry in a very basic (old fashioned) way to fall into the trap of something so simple and feeble as rhyming couplets…note, I don’t capitalise their first letters – they don’t deserve that kind of attention. I have never been drawn towards that kind of poetry and couldn’t wait to get away from it in childhood – so I don’t have the same romantic image of poetry that a lot of newbie writers have; I don’t want to make copies of that old stuff.
The only old work, using rhyme, that impresses me are some of Larkin’s and especially Dylan Thomas’s Villanelle
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night:
‘Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’
I think I can like any poem that is constructed carefully so that every word is justified and has a real place in the work, not just existing to fill a rhyme. Poets who insist on rhyme are putting the rhyme before the subject matter…and isn’t the subject matter supposed to be the reason the poet writes the poem? Or, the metaphor and imagery; shouldn’t they have room at the top? I think rhyme should be a choice, and a last one at that. The poem, the statement, the emotion underneath needs to arrive first…and the rhyme should sway in the breeze, not batter the reader about the head before they can understand what is being said or portrayed.
Rant over. Maybe I’ll go browse a few poems, look for another fight.