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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: rhyme scheme, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Food: Taking Poetry by the Throat

The Kappe Arabhatta inscription of 7th century...

When Robert Lee Brewer handed out his challenge assignment this morning on Poetic Asides, I imagine his grin and his thoughts. “They’re gonna be all over this one. I can see it now.”

He was right, you know. We did stomp all over this prompt-of-the-day. Food is right up my alley, as my backside can attest. He wanted us to write about regional cuisine—either the food itself or some aspect pertaining to it. This was my response.

Granny’s Guarded Secret

It sits, having conquered gravity

To reign over table and diners.

Six layers of diabetes, waiting

For consumption by the sliver.

Who’d’ve expected one pie

To feed twenty sugar addicts?

We wait, breathe held, for slicing

To begin so that we can let

Our portion melt, slither, find

Our centers to give that rush

To bodies needing Pilates more

Than three kinds of caramel in

Six stacked shells of doughy goodness.

© Claudette J. Young 2012

Meanwhile, over at Poetic Bloomings. I found In-Form Poet proceedings for the day. Poet Jan Turner invented a new form not long ago, which puts limits on some areas of form, while leaving others untouched. It goes like this.

Write a Tri-Fall poem:

  • Three stanzas of six lines each
  • Rhyme scheme of a,b,c,a,b,c
  • Syllable count for each stanza: 6-3-8-6-3-8
  • No specific meter
  • Little to no punctuation
  • Any subject will do

Since I was already subject oriented from the Poetic Asides prompt, I stayed on the subject of regional food, parked myself at Granny’s table, and wrote about what had been placed before me. My goal was to write a story in this poem. I’m hoping to capture a memory. You’ll have to tell me if I succeeded in telling the story.

Sunday Lunch

Table long, groaning now

under weight

of platters, dishes, and elbows.

Ham, chops, eggs galore vow

to stay late

just to erase dieter’s woes.

 

Clasping hands for prayer

waiting now

‘til men get theirs and kids do too.

Smells so good this home fare

“Where’s the cow?”

Utters late-comer with “moo.”

 

“Stayed outside,” replies Gran

“Sit and eat.”

all bowls cleaned, platters empty too.

Belt loose on a lone man

children sleep

in laps of soft-talking moms.

© Claudette J. Young 2012

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2. Why Do Editors Say Not to Write in Rhyme?

One of the most frequently asked questions by new kidlit writers is “why do editors say not to write in rhyme?” There’s plenty of picture books written in rhyme, right? They get published somehow!

Well, the answer is a bit complicated. It’s not that editors don’t necessarily LIKE rhyme. It’s just that it is very difficult to do well. Here’s why:

  • Rhyme scheme can dictate story–but shouldn’t. Tales should unfold organically, not be forced into the confines of the rhyme. Often it’s suggested to write in prose first—so you don’t get locked into a plot that doesn’t work—then translate it to rhyme.
  • Common rhyme schemes can be stale. Editors see them again and again. Avoid overly simple, one-syllable rhyme schemes like  go/show/know, to/you, me/be/she/he/see, run/fun/sun, day/may/way/say. If your reader can guess the word at the end of the line before they get there, your rhyme scheme may be too common. Editors want to read rhyme that surprises them.
  • Forced rhyme or near-rhyme can ruin a story. This is when words don’t exactly rhyme unless you mispronounce them. Once in a while this is acceptable, but more than a few times in a manuscript and it distracts.
  • The meter (or beat) must be spot-on. That doesn’t just mean the number of syllables in each line, but the emphasis on those syllables. Meter shouldn’t be so sing-songy and constant that it lulls the reader to sleep (unless maybe it’s a bedtime book) or so rough that it tongue-ties the reader and forces them to speak unnaturally. Some good rhyming books offer a break in the rhyme scheme for variety—not unlike a bridge in a song.
  • Rhyming books are difficult to translate into other languages. An editor may not want to lose out on foreign book sales, so they’ll pass on a rhyming project.

However, if your heart is set on rhyme and if you have a talent for it, you should go for it. At first, Karma Wilson listened to the “don’t rhyme” advice.

“When I first started submitting some 15 years ago all the guidelines said, ‘No rhyme and no talking animals!’ For THREE years I avoided rhyme and talking animals. But guess what my first book sale was? BEAR SNORES ON! And guess what the guidelines said for McElderry books? NO RHYME AND NO TALKING ANIMALS! My passion is rhyme, and talking animals are great as long as they have something interesting to say.”

Yes, you can break the rules like Karma. But get your rhyme critiqued and know whether or not you can nail it.

Me, I’m terrible at rhyme and I know it. I cannot “hear” meter. I’ve tried and failed. My friends have coached me, but I still don’t get the right beat. I can’t dance to it. (I can’t dance anyway. Think Elaine from Seinfeld. Sweet fancy moses!)

So what is successful rhyme? I’m glad you asked! I’ve got a few examples for you.

In HUSH, LITTLE DRAGON, Boni Ashburn spoofs the lullaby “Hush, Little Baby”. Instead of buying her baby a mockingbird, the mama dragon in the story brings her darling son various villagers to eat. It’s delightfully tongue-in-cheek. Some of the best lines:

Here she comes with a fresh magician.
Don’t mind the tast

11 Comments on Why Do Editors Say Not to Write in Rhyme?, last added: 3/13/2012
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