Let’s Talk Poetry: The Challenge of Rhyme
When we think of poetry, we often think of rhyme. Indeed, that is how most of us were introduced to poetry as children—with nursery rhymes. The combination of music and language can be intoxicating. Nowadays, much poetry is written in free verse that does not adhere to any formalized or set pattern of sound and rhythm. Robert Frost, who carried the torch for rhyming poetry said: “Writing poetry without rhyme is like playing tennis without a net.” He obviously felt that without some sort of rhyming, a poet is basically cheating.
Supposedly, there are 70-some words in the English language that cannot be rhymed with. The most commonly cited are: orange, silver, month—and purple. Yet, poets often challenge themselves to try and find ways to prove the world wrong. Liam Eddy, a retired school teacher and technical writer who lives in Ashland, Ky., is one of these poets. Over the years he has been involved with various poetry groups, and one group tried the exercise of attempting to write a poem on a subject that was hard or impossible to rhyme. The subject Liam was assigned was the color purple. He says, “For me the whole thing boiled down to thinking about the constituents of purple, or purple-ness, then using contemporary, and older, more familiar cultural references in a stream-of-consciousness, or meditative way of rendering the verse.” Although he may not have totally succeeded in rhyming with “purple,” the results of this poetry challenge rendered a uniquely creative final product:
Purple, the wearing of, the power of, purple passion,
purple haze, purple rain, purple stains of wine, of the lips—
from “the Arrakine spice,” purple dream—passionate scenes,
onions, one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eaters,
purple mountains majesties, purple illusions—tragedies,
shades of reds and blues, some of the darker hues.
Red, better dead than, red-faced, red-handed, red neck,
red skin, the hunt for red October, big red, little red—
riding hood, the little caboose, red skies in morning,
red skies at night, what a delight. Red eye express,
the red planet in red-dawn, Red Skelton, Red Buttons,
the Red Power Ranger, and that badge of courage,
the mask of the red death, red hexagonal sign—STOP.
The Blues—12 bars, blue note, blue meanies, bluish,
blue blood, blue-eyed blond, off in the wild blue yonder,
nothin’ but blue skies from now on, blue whale, the blue
barbarians, summer time Blues Magoos, Blue Oyster Cult,
Blue Ridge Mountains, the deep blue sea, Blue Beard got weird,
blue plate special, in cobalt blue, gun blue, and ice blue too.
The progeny of red and blue? Purple.
Liam Eddy can often be found reading his creations, such as this one, at Portsmouth’s poetry open mic night every first Thursday of the month at Port City Café and Pub. Come give a listen to this fine bard and other area poets—and see how the ancient art of rhyme is wrestled with, performed, and sometimes mastered.
Address poem submissions and correspondence to: firstname.lastname@example.org or Neil Carpathios, Shawnee State University, Dept. of English & Humanities, 940 Second Street, Portsmouth, OH 45662. (740-351-3478).
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