Over the years I have written a handful of rhymed poems—more than a handful, it turns out—sonnets, villanelles, quatrains, plus a whole cadre of poems with their own idiosyncratic stanzaic structures that nonetheless rely fundamentally on rhyme at the end of the line. For some reason I have returned to a form of lyric that at one time seemed suspect, certainly retrograde—hopelessly connected to an earlier era with less than modernist assumptions.
But lately I have been returning to rhyme. Why? For years I have written free verse, carefully crafted, relying frequently on alliteration and assonance in the old Anglo-Saxon tradition. This tradition has its own music, not as familiar to most contemporary readers of English. But rhyme?
By rhyme we mean, of course, not internal or even slant rhyme à la Emily Dickinson but end rhyme—which connotes a kind of chiming finality. This is the stuff of much-derided "Hallmark verse." One of my recent poems, called "Wind Chimes," makes a flamboyant showcase of chiming echoes.
But to the question of why. Students always love rhyme, even when they shouldn’t. Even when it is forced and artificial and blatantly sentimental. Somehow it is reassuring. It speaks to them at some primeval, almost genetic level of human consciousness. We recognize this genetic predisposition in toddlers, who respond instinctively with their bodies to the clanging, repetitive sounds of language.
So finally, after years in the free-verse "wilderness," I have wandered back to the grand-motherly realm of rhyme. Only it’s not your grandmother’s world. I have even assembled a chapbook of rhymed pieces I have written over the years—a motley yet insistent crew—into a collection I tentatively call Twinnings. ("Twinnings," I learned recently, also refers to rock crystals that cluster in patterns of dualities.) Some of them are surprisingly political, even leftist—a pointed contradiction to the supposed conservative bias of rhyme.
But my rhyme is not the conventional kind. Even the sonnets dare to defy certain rules—with their irregular rhyme schemes, jaunty syntax, and conversational word choice. One could say that I have opted for music but not for stricture. Many of my recent poems rhyme across lines of varying lengths and patterns so the chiming carries the readers on a sleigh-ride of surprise and adventure.
Not where I planned to go but where the words have carried me in their relentless dance into the future. Maybe that’s the inevitable result of having twin granddaughters, who push us into the music of the future.
Causes David Radavich Supports
Human rights world-wide, ecology/conservation, historic preservation