11/14/2012 09:07 am ET Updated Nov 14, 2012

Writer Wednesday: 6 Rhyming Styles That Will Amp Up Your Poetry

From Writer's Relief staff:

Many poets begin their early years writing rhyming poetry, which is a great way to get a handle for the rhythmic nature of poetry, and it was certainly a valid form for many great poets: John Keats, Emily Dickinson, and Robert Frost are all respected poets who wrote rhyming poetry and wrote it well. But times have changed: For those of us trying to break into the world of contemporary poetry as published authors in this lifetime, rhyme isn't always the best way to go—at least in the sense that many of us think of rhyme. This is what most people think of when talking about rhyming poetry:

Perfect Rhyme
A typical ABAB perfect-rhyme scheme might read something like this:

The carrots in the field
Have been looking very dry
If the crops don't offer a decent yield
The children will surely cry

The above lines are an example of perfect rhyme, where field/yield and dry/cry sound the same, very matchy-matchy. This form is particularly difficult to use in contemporary poetry because it's so easy to fall into a sing-songy nursery-rhyme sound that sounds childish or clichéd. The best way to move away from that is to use other, more subtle types of rhyming, which will create a poem that sounds much more sophisticated.

Read on for tips on how to spice up your style so that you AND the editors reviewing your poems will be pleased.

Internal Rhyme
Since perfect rhyme does its trick at the very end of a line, you can use internal rhyme to give your poems a more grown-up appeal. Internal rhyme, otherwise known as “middle rhyme,” is rhyme within a single line of verse. The result is less obvious than perfect rhyme and reads less like a nursery rhyme:

Our eyes avert the field; this season's yield is sure
To make the children cry. The dry earth offers nothing.

By rearranging the placement of the same rhyming words, these similar lines of poetry immediately distance themselves from the prior sing-songy feel of perfect rhyme.

This is when the same initial consonant sound repeats in close succession:

This season, the field is flat and fiery-hot. Nothing grows.
Crows care nothing about the cries of the children.

Alliteration brings a more subtle form of music to an otherwise flat line—there's far more musicality than most prose, even in just the space of two lines, so it doesn't feel overtly like rhyme, but is still distinctly lines of poetry.

Assonance occurs when the vowels in a single given line rhyme:

The fields lie flat and barren for the callous crows to dine.

Again, this style is much subtler than perfect rhyme, but also foreign to most prose, so there is still a signature poetic feel to it without rhyming in any obvious way.

Consonance is present when one or two consonants in the words of a given phrase repeat in close succession, even if the words themselves don't have perfect rhyme:

The crows patiently wait for the crops to drown, drawn to the worms beneath.

Because consonance happens within the internal structure of the consonants, but doesn't have the outright rhyming sound, it's a nice, subtle way to play with language without sounding clichéd.

Half Rhyme
Half rhyme occurs when the final consonants repeat, regardless of the vowels or initial consonants:

The rain falls, melting the field's cracked, dry crust; mist rises from the ground.

Half rhyme is even more subtle than consonance—the reader might not even realize consciously that a stylistic choice has been carefully made here, but it definitely contributes to the overall effect.

Reverse Rhyme
Reverse rhyme is what it sounds like—structurally, it's the reverse of what we think of as typical rhyme. Rather than the matching sounds occurring at the ends of the words (field/yield, dry/cry), they occur at the beginnings of the words:

All the work of planting, lost. The crows feast on the worms dislodged in the rain.

We hope you're able to use these rhyming tools to bring your perfect rhyme to an entirely different level. Editors will appreciate that you've taken the time to think outside the box and paid attention to every structural element of your lines, and your rhyming poetry will have a better shot at publication.

Read more at Writer's Relief!