Sunday, May 17, 2009

Why don't modern poems rhyme?

Robert Pinsky, writing in Slate, talks about his views about poetry, "Why Doesn't Modern Poetry Rhyme

I'm not sure I agree with him entirely (I like a well-done rhymed poem, from time to time, and I certainly don't think that appreciating humorous poetry means a person is "a jerk"), but, at least, he doesn't just expound his views; what he does is give example poems, and ask the reader what they think about them.

So what's with Pinsky? Do his views have value, or is he full of it?


Theresa Göttl Brightman said...

I like the snarky tone of this. It makes me smile. And I like the way this article provides a miniature kind of primer on contemporary poetry.

But, I do disagree with a couple of things here.

Rhyming a piece well is talent (one which few of us can claim. Personally, I'm jealous of those who can manage it.) Just because a poem rhymes doesn't mean it holds no merit. Granted, there are many terrible poems that rhyme.

But there are also many terrible poems that do not rhyme.

And if Pinsky doesn't think that song lyrics can measure up to poetry, then he doesn't listen to enough indie music. Or music in general...sad for him. (Although, I do understand that he was trying to make a point by being snarky to the extreme...)

John B. Burroughs said...

I like this. As Geoff and T.M have said, I might disagree with pieces and parts. But I think Pinsky makes his point(s) rather well, and this was definitely a worthwhile read. Thanks for turning us on to it. Now I'm off to contemplate further.

Vertigo Xavier said...

Out of all the poem submissions I read, I do reject a larger percentage of rhymed poetry than unrhymed. However, rhymed poetry is much more difficult to write, and when a rhymed piece comes along that is astonishingly good, the rhyme structure makes it all the more so.

Of late, I've read poems that I've been holding for the upcoming Poet's Haven magazine at open-mics, testing the crowd's response to the pieces. Of all the pieces I plan to put in issue one, my absolute favorite (so far) happens to be a rhymed poem. Anyone I've shown this poem to has liked it, it has even gotten a few "wow!" responses. Yet, every time I've read it somewhere, you can hear crickets chirping when I finish. Now, I know I'm not the best performer in ANY room, but the cold response this piece gets when read aloud disturbs me. I have to wonder if this is simply a snobbish response to a rhymed poem, like many of the poets in the room hear the rhyme and don't listen to any of the words past that. I hope the cold response is just to me reading a poem not my own and not by an author the room already knows.

michael salinger said...


I have not had the opportunity to hear you read this rhymed verse so I am going to give some basic advice in reading rhymed verse which you may already know. The biggest mistake folks make while reading rhymed verse is to over accentuate the rhyme. Think Shakespearean actors – they read over the rhyme so that the rhythm it evokes is almost subliminal. Try reading past the rhyme – two lines at a time without taking a pause at the rhyming word and see if that helps.

Geoffrey A. Landis said...

Some poems work on the page, but don't real well-- and vice versa, some poems read exceptionally well, but are flat on the page. I had one rhymed poem that I read once where a (critic) that I quite respected said, after I'd read it, wow, that's really a great poem, do you have a copy? So I gave him my reading copy... and he looked at it for a minute or two, then gave it back to me, and said "well, it's not really very good."

Anonymous said...

Because they can.


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau