Rules for Rhymes

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On Today’s Menu:
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** Share some birthday cake
for an American poet & lexicographer.
** Linger to ponder
how poetry is put together.
** Savor a last ½ cup comparing
12th century golliards and 20th century hip hop artists.
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First Sip:

Beyond the window the moon may be in riot
With the winter night. But your voice having ceased
In the room here, silence comes, barefooted,
To conver the leavings of our frugal feast.

– from Two People Eat Honey
Babette Deutsch

“two people eat honey”


Slice of Cake:

Kind as a country servant, silence moves
About us, with a tender dignity smoothing
The unseemly creases in our loves.

– from Two People Eat Honey
by Babette Deutsch

She wrote a dictionary: Poetry Handbook (1957)
But that book isn’t why I love Babette Deutsch’s writing.
I fell in love with her poetry decades ago.
Mostly because of the poem Two People Eat Honey, quoted above.

You can read the whole poem here.
(It’s short.)

** Here are five things I learned this week **
Babette Deutsch

** Despite her European-sounding name, Deutsch a New Yorker, born and raised.

** She began publishing poetry as a college student.

** She taught writing at Columbia University.

** She married a librarian, who worked for the New York Public Library.
He was from Ukraine originally, and was head of library’s Slavonic Division.

** Along with writing her own poetry, she also translated hundreds of poems from
German, French, Japanese, and Russian poets; including, Eugene Onegin by Pushkin.

Happy 124th Birthday
** Babette Deutsch

– born September 22, 1895
in New York City


Linger Awhile:

Ryme is the fittest harmonie of words
that comportes with our Language.

– from Defence of Ryme (1603)
Samuel Daniel


Language, as poets know,
is as complex, elastic,
and flexible as any other living thing.

– from Poetry Handbook
Babette Deutsch

I’ve been thinking this week about prosody,
a fancy word I just learned.

I found it (and several other ten-dollar words)
in Poetry Handbook by Babette Deutsch.

Definition for prosody:
how a poem is structured;
including rhyme patterns, meter, rhythm,
repetition of consonant and vowel sounds,
which syllables are stressed, and even the
look of the poem on the page.

My own poetry tends to be free verse—it rarely rhymes.

One of the few times I tried a more structured poems was
a sonnet I wrote in high school.

I followed the conventions for sonnets—the conventions I knew, anyway.
Following Shakespeare’s example, I knew:

Sonnets have 14 lines.
And the rhyming pattern goes like this: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.

Here’s my one and only sonnet.
(I wrote it in high school in 1979.)


Together again as we end our day,
Though tired from work, and haste, and worry,
We share a smile and our cares fade away.
I will kiss your mouth and stop the hurry
that the day’s pressures and problems instill,
Now we relax and talk of what is new.
The kitchen cleaned, I make the meal to fill
our stomachs, while you find the tea to brew
And wood to warm the house with orange fire.
You set the table and I light the light.
We eat by the window—there admire
The stars that glisten to us through the night.
Together again as our day is through
And I’ve another night to share with you.

© KJH February 12, 1979

At this point, I hadn’t learned meter or feet.
(As far as rhythm goes, I was winging it.)

So, it’s interesting now, armed with Babette Deutsch’s handbook,
to look at what rhythm I came up with simply going on
what sounded good to my ear.

As natural as breathing,
the ebb and flow of the tides, the return of the season,
rhythm is immediately experienced and recognize with pleasure,
but it eludes definition.

– from Poetry Handbook
Babette Deutsch

Prosody #1
Rhythm is measured by the space between stressed syllables.
The basic unit is called feet.

Here’s the first line of my sonnet with the stressed syllable marked in all caps, and the feet marked with backslashes:

Together again as we end our day
Toge/ ther again/ as we end/ our day

This first line has 10 syllables and 4 feet.
(So do almost all of the lines in my sonnet.)

In the handbook, Deutsch describes several kinds sonnets.

A Shakespearean sonnet has 10 syllables and 5 feet per line (called a pentameter).
Poet Elinor Wylie’s “short sonnet” has 8 syllables and 4 feet per line (called a tetrameter).

Deutsch doesn’t have any examples like my sonnet, with 10 syllables and only 4 feet.

However, she does quote poet Merril Moore who had “freedom in his syllable length and meter.”
(I guess I’m more like Moore.)

Prosody #2
Feet with the last syllable accented are called either iambic or anapestic.

Iambic has two syllables (duh DUH).
Anapestic has three syllables (duh duh DUH).

Many lines in my sonnet are a mix of both. For example,
The third line has two iambic, then two anapestic:

We share a smile and our cares fade away
We share/ a smile/ and our cares/ fade a way

But hey! My seventh line is full-on, classic Shakespearean iambic pentameter:

The kitchen cleaned, I make the meal to fill
The kit/ chen cleaned/ I make/ the meal/ to fill

(That is, if you read it using a Californian accent,
so that “cleaned” is one syllable…)

Prosody #3
Last interesting bit of prosody, is about rising, falling, and rocking.

If a line tends to have the stress fall on the last syllable of each foot,
the rhythm is called rising.

In my sonnet, almost all the feet in my lines are rising
(Deutsch says ‘most English verse’ is rising).

An exception is the end of lines 2 and 4 of my sonnet;
the words worry and hurry have a stress that falls on the first syllable; they are falling.

A third option is rocking, where the stress falls between two unstressed syllables.
Deutsch gives an example from the poem Hesperia by Algernon Swinburne:

Far out to the shallows and straits of the future, by rough ways or pleasant
out to the shallows and straits of the future, by rough ways or pleasant…

I think my only line that might be ‘rocking’ is line 11:

We eat by the window—there admire
eat by the window—there admire

(A rough rocking, perhaps.)


“Half Cup More”

It’s important to note, that though the handbook gives definitions and conventions,
art is full of rules that are meant to be broken.

Writing about rhyme, Deutsch praises Tennyson’s poem for changing things up,
and “so relieve what otherwise would be the monotonous rhythm it creates.”
In other words, breaking the rules makes things better.

But only when they’re done well.

In 1957, when Babette Deutsch first published Poetry Handbook
free verse had become very popular, and rhyming poetry was looking pretty old-fashioned.

Instead, what was popular at the time were the beat poets, who certainly didn’t write structured, rhyming poetry.

Babette Deutsch included a section on the beat poets in the second (1962) edition of Poetry Handbook. She wrote about their “rootlessness, their ribaldry, their explosive attacks on the accepted order” and how they “reject the values of soceity…and express their rejection in scatological imagery.”

She contrasts them (unfavorably) with the goliards, a group of poets from the Middle Ages, She writes that, unlike the goliards, the beat poets “lack the witty scholarship, technical skill, and natural gaiety.”

The goliards were “learned vagabonds of the Middle Ages who celebrated the pleasures of the flesh and satirized the selfish beniciaries of the established order.”
They were noted for their use of rhyme.

I bring this up because after modern poetry abandoned them, sophisticated rhyming styles began showing up in another very popular genre:
Hip Hop music.

Hip Hop music is not a genre I know a lot about, but I enjoyed this fascinating video by writer Estelle Caldwell and music theorist Martin Connor.

You can see the video here:

The video shows how rhyming styles have both changed and become more complex over the decades of Hip Hop’s history.

To me, it’s amazing how often Estelle Caldwell (talking about 21st century music) and Babette Deutsch (talking about 19th and 20th century poetry) are talking about the same things.

Internal rhymes, occuring with the line,
naturally emphasize rhythmic structure.
They are also called leonine rhymes after
Leo of St Victor, who used them in his verse.

Babette Deutsch

>> In the video Caldwell contrasts end rhymes with internal rhymes.
Examples of internal rhymes (indeed, proceed, bleed, need)
are shown in Eric B Is President by Eric B and Rakim (1986).

Among the kinds of near rhyme now admired is vocalic assonance,
where the stressed vowels in the words agree
but the consonants do not…
Vowel rhyme is rare, though examples can be found,
notably in the verse of Emily Dickinson.

– Babette Deutsch

>> Caldwell shows examples of vowel rhyme
Example of vowel rhymes (smooth, lose, choose, to, do)
are shown in Hypnotize by Notorious B.I.G. (1997).

Triple rhymes…are unusual…
but can serve serious verse, as is evidenced
by more than one poem of Thomas Hardy.

– Babette Deutsch

Caldwell defines holorimes as multi-syllable rhyming phrases,
sometimes rhyming entire lines—
which is beyond anything in the Deutsch’s Poetry Handbook.
Examples of triple rhymes (rabbit he, that easy, back’s to these, stagnant he, matter he)
are shown in Lose Yourself by Eminem
(which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2002).

The distinguishing feature…of poetry
is its imaginative power.

– Babette Deutsch

As with any art form, the most important element is
the ideas and feelings communicated.
What Estelle Caldwell calls ‘vivid storytelling’
and what Babette Deutsch calls ‘power.’

Don’t miss where Caldwell explains
the term ‘motive’ using Rigamortis by Kendrick Lamar (2011)
and Symphony #5 in C Major by Ludwig van Beethoven (1808).


Take-Away Box

Over there on the dining room table
are just twenty-five of the thousands of essays
on the poetry of Robert Frost
produced this week alone in the USA,
the world leader in essays on Robert Frost.

The essays are about ambiguity
The Road Not Taken, and also ambiguity
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.

Every year the English majors of America
must read these poems and analyze their ambiguity
or compare and contrast their ambiguity
in five double-spaced pages.

And the English teachers of America must read these pages
and determine whether they are incisive or not incisive.

I am one of those teachers. I try to do my share.
Because if we don’t do this—if Frost’s ambiguity

is not discussed, and if these discussions are not assessed,
and then finally graded—well, what’s the point of all this?
What are we doing here?

I must walk over to the dining room table
and determine whether the essays are incisive or not incisive.

And yet two days have passed, an entire weekend,
and it’s Sunday evening and I am having a glass of wine
and the essays on ambiguity in the poetry of Robert Fros
remain unassessed by me, and this is getting very serious.

Robert Frost
George Bilgere
(used by permission of the author)


Thank you for reading!
Kelly J Hardesty

Thoughts? Questions?
Scroll down to the endand you can leave me note!
Always so lovely to hear from you.

working on my prosody
this week

You Can Read More…


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© Kelly J Hardesty 2024

2 thoughts on “Rules for Rhymes”

  1. I like George Bilgere’s poem a lot. And I’m looking forward to watching the video when we get home.
    Love, Carlyn

    1. I agree! That poem! “It’s Sunday evening and…this is getting serious.” That line always make me laugh.
      Thanks, Carlyn! xo — Kelly

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