Types of rhyme

The previous step considered why you might rhyme in the first place. The following step looks at just a few of the different types of rhyme that poets have to choose from, before suggesting some simple exercises.

Rhyme

Let’s begin with the idea of full rhyme:

example

pen
hen
ten
men
ken
Yen
fen
when
then
again

Read the example set out above. Because our theme is tools, I have begun the list of rhyme words with a poet’s tool. As you can see and hopefully hear from the example, in the case of full rhyme only the beginning of words differs. Of course in many cases a person’s accent changes things. One person’s full rhyme is another person’s half rhyme—but we’ll get to that in a minute!

Full rhyme can even extend across more than one syllable, as in paper and caper. And as long as the endings sound exactly the same, they are called full rhyme, even when spelled differently, (e.g. write and right). Half rhyme, on the other hand, looks like this:

pen
pan
pun
plain
porcelain
lend

Perhaps you can see or hear that while there are some similarities in sound, the sound is not the same. In the example (above), it is mostly the vowel that changes (e/a/i/o/u), and the consonants that remain the same (p and n). However, the idea of the half rhyme can be stretched quite far, and can be subject to debate. What did you think of rhyming pen and porcelain or lend for instance? Too much?

So far we have looked at only two types of rhyme. What they have in common is that both occur at the end of the line. There are many more though! If you want to find out about other types of rhyme, check out the Poetry Foundation website (see below).

Rhyme structure

Rhyme can be used to structure a stanza or an entire poem by repeating certain patterns. Letters are often used to indicate these patterns in the following way:

There once was a man who’d read
a book on making a shed.
When he tried to get in
he banged his shin
‘cause he’d built the thing on its head.

In this tool-themed poem, there are two sets of rhyming words. Can you see them? The first is ‘read’ and ‘shed’ in lines one and two, and the final word ‘head’ in the last line. Let’s call this group A. The second set are ‘in’ and ‘shin’ in lines three and four. Let’s call this group B. Now are they full or half rhyme?

They are full rhymes, chosen for their musical effect. In fact, the rhymes tell us a lot. If you aren’t familiar with the form, then the rhymes together with the rhythm and the content of the poem confirm that this is a limerick. In particular, it is the pattern of the rhyme that tells us this. If we write the letter A next to the rhyming words in group A and do the same for group B, it looks like this:

There once was a man who’d read         A
a book on making a shed.                      A
When he tried to get in                         B
he banged his shin                                 B
‘cause he’d built the thing on its head.   A

When we write the pattern out, this is called the rhyme scheme. The rhyme scheme for a limerick looks like this: AABBA. Other types of poems or poem stanzas have other rhyme schemes. The simplest is the couplet, in which the first line and the one immediately after it rhyme.

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How To Make A Poem

Manchester Metropolitan University

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