Originally posted by Agerg
That is, I assert that poems which rhyme, and poems that are free verse appeal to two different mindsets
The idea that poetry which doesn't rhyme is ipso facto free verse is simply wrong. Many, many poems over the millennia haven't rhymed. By dismissing anything without rhyme as "free verse" you are lumping Catullus, Beowulf and Basho with emo Ginsberg wannabe's. That, I hope you'll agree, would be a grave mistake.
While it is true that free verse does not have rhyme (where would it?), that is not its defining characteristic. The real nature of free verse is that it has no metre
- not foot-based, not accented, not even simply syllabic. None. From this it follows that there is no point in it rhyming, either, but the essence is the lack of a metre. IMAO, this also means that there ain't such a thing as free verse.
As for MAO, I don't mind if a poem doesn't rhyme, as long as it doesn't rhyme with intent. In classical Roman poetry, rhymes didn't occur. Oh, Romans knew what rhyme was - but they usually avoided it. And their poetry is none the worse for it. Early English poetry didn't have rhyme, either, but abounded in alliteration. Many people now see this as cheesy and childish; read the Beowulf and tell me that they're right!
Not rhyming by accident, or if you can't be bothered, that's a different matter. That's just laziness. Even worse is having rhyme all through your poem, but skipping it in a few verses where you couldn't find a good one. Rhyme, or do not rhyme. Don't start and then fail. Better not to have rhymed from the beginning.
If you can't, or don't want to, find full rhymes for all your verses, no problem. Use assonance instead, or consonance - but keep it up! Few things say "hack poet" more clearly than a Pindaric ode full of well-found assonance, and in the penultimate couple, one perfect rhyme. (One of those few things is when said couple doesn't even assonate...) Again: I don't care how
it's done, as long as it's done well.
So, no, I don't think that rhyme makes a poem. What makes a poem is metre
. This doesn't have to be the strict ca-THUMP-ca-THUMP of iambic pentameter. The stress-based, but syllable-free metre of much Middle-English poetry does just fine. So is the stressless syllable-counting of Japanese poetry. Doesn't matter which a poet chooses, as long - again! - as he keeps it up. Write a stanzaic poem in ragged lines of 1-4-7-4-7-1 syllables: fine, if all your stanzas fit the mould. Write a single sonnet: fine. Write it, not in the English pentameter, but in French alexandrines: sure, but - don't switch to pentameter after the volta.
And that's why I claim that free verse doesn't exist. Free verse has no
metre, and is therefore indistinguishable from prose, hacked randomly into pieces.
is not hard at
as you can see, and as
just about anyone
in high school poetry classes.
Such is free
The above took me little more time to write than it took you to read. The vast, vast majority of free verse is neither better nor worse than it. Would it have been better if I had spent five minutes with a rhyming dictionary, to add a few spurious, forced rhymes? Surely not! It would then have had repeated sounds - it would, even, have had a hacked-together structure - but that's all it would have had. Rhyme, superimposed on broken prose, adds rhyme, not rhythm. It makes a rhyme, not a metre, not a poem.
Free verse is not poetry, not because it lacks rhyme, but because it lacks metre.