How to Write Poems – Chapter 4: The Repetition of Sounds

Contents | Chapter 5: The Repetition of Structures

English poetry has long been associated with the repetition of sounds, including the repetition of the beginning, middle, and ending sounds of words. In the present era, many poets have abandoned the repetition of sounds, and they have sought to express their ideas in “free verse” and in other ways. This book does not take one position or the other, for or against the use of free verse, but it does focus mainly on traditional forms of poetry.

Let’s look at how some sounds are repeated in traditional English poetry. In this book, to differentiate between strongly stressed and weakly stressed syllables, the strongly stressed syllables will be in bold text, while the weakly stressed syllables will be in regular text.

The most typical repetition of sounds is made with the perfect rhyme. The perfect rhyme (also called the exact rhyme) normally involves the matching of at least one stressed vowel sound, and the matching of the sounds to the right of the stressed vowel sound. The sounds to the left of the stressed vowel sound should be different. For example, “hit” is a perfect rhyme for “sit” because the stressed vowel sounds (the “i” sounds) match, the sounds to the right of the stressed vowel sounds (in this case, the “t” sounds) match in each word, and the sounds to the left of the stressed vowel sounds (the “h” and the “s”) are different. “Inflate” is a perfect rhyme for “great” even though the words differ in the number of syllables they contain. “Inflate” is not a perfect rhyme for “placate” because “inflate” is stressed on the second syllable, while “placate” is stressed on the first syllable. “Inquired” and “required” are not perfect rhymes because the consonant sounds (the “qu” sounds, which sound like “kw”) to the left of the stressed vowel sounds (“i”) are identical.

The double rhyme matches two ending syllables (e.g., “incited” and “invited”). The triple rhyme matches three ending syllables (e.g., “economical” and “anatomical”).

The imperfect rhyme is any type of sound repetition that is not a perfect rhyme. The words in question may have matching consonants or matching vowels. This term has many synonyms, such as half rhyme, slant rhyme, lazy rhyme, approximate rhyme, and inexact rhyme.

Consonance is a type of sound repetition that involves words that have matching consonant sounds. (A consonant is any letter that is not a vowel. The vowels in the English language are “a,” “e,” “i,” “o,” and “u.”) For example, “tick” and “tock” have matching consonants but not matching vowel sounds. “Mistake” and “mystic” also exemplify consonance.

Assonance is a type of sound repetition that involves words that have matching vowel sounds. For example, the words “hit” and “lick” have the same vowel sounds but different consonant sounds. “Almost” and “auto” have two matching vowel sounds.

Alliteration is a type of sound repetition that is a special form of consonance. The matching consonant sounds are at the beginning of the words or in the stressed syllables. For example, “The Primary Parameters of Poetry” contains an alliteration formed by the letter “p.”

A falling rhyme (also called a feminine or dying rhyme) occurs when the matching words have a weak stress on the last one or two syllables. For example, “rhyming” and “climbing” each have one weakly stressed final syllable. “Civility” and “agility” have two weakly stressed final syllables.

A rising rhyme (also called a masculine rhyme) occurs with matching monosyllabic words or with matching polysyllabic words in which the strong stress is on the final syllable. For example, “go” and “flow” are both monosyllabic words. “Excite” and “alight” are polysyllabic words that have the strong stress on the final syllable.

An identical rhyme consists of the repetition of the same word. For example, “life” could be used to rhyme with “life.”

An eye rhyme (also called a sight rhyme) consists of words that are placed in rhyming positions, and that look the same, but that are not pronounced the same (e.g., “tough” and “though” or “clove” and “love”).

A poem or stanza containing monorhyme consists of rhyming words that all have the same rhyming sound. For example, the rhyming words might all end with the “ate” sound: “fate,” “late,” “great,” “hate,” etc.

Internal rhyme consists of two or more rhyming words on a single line of verse (e.g., “The hazy sky hid the lazy, crazy thief”).

Onomatopoeia consists of a word that imitates a sound it describes (e.g., “honk,” “woof,” and “buzz”).

Euphony is the pleasant combination of sounds, while cacophony is the combination of sounds to create a jarring or discordant sound.

Contents | Chapter 5: The Repetition of Structures