For poems that don’t rhyme, Bob doesn’t have time

For poems that don't rhyme, Bob doesn't have time
This is a warning! I'll make some people mad just like I did when I wrote a bird-watching column.

I said disparaging words about sparrows � I called them "eave's-droppers" � a few folks didn't like it. Now I'm going to pick on poets and poetry.

I like poems a lot, but they've got to rhyme. Someone once said that free verse is like playing tennis with the net down. That's what I think about modern poetry!


I want rhyming words at the end of the line, like moon-June, might-fight and single-jingle. Maybe that's why I appreciate Johnny Mercer and Ogden Nash so much.

For instance, Mercer wrote:

To illustrate my

last remark �

Jonah's in the whale,

Noah's in the ark �

What did they do, when everything looked so dark?

Hark! Everything rhymed. There were lots of other words to chose from: bark, lark, spark, park, stark, Clark (like in Lewis and).

Why is it so hard for poets to pick words that sound alike? I guess it's old-fashioned to make like James Whitcomb Riley.

Years ago I wrote a verse for Pasque Petals, and I made sure it rhymed. Everybody was doing it then. We wouldn't be caught dead to make it sound like prose. Now, if the poet doesn't dangle a participle, he's looked down upon as something out of the dim, dark past.

I favor things like Riley's

O, it sets my heart a-clickin'

like the tickin' of a clock,

When the frost is

on the punkin'

and the fodder's

in the shock.

Of course, he wrote it in 1883 when rhyming was the thing to do. Could be I'm older than I think.

Henry Wadsworth Long-fellow and John Greenleaf Whittier wrote in the 1880s, too. And we all remember Longfellow's

Listen, my children,

and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of

Paul Revere.

Or Whittier's

Blessings on thee,

little man,

Barefoot boy,

with cheek of tan!

They selected words which sang, and not the unrhymed stuff which modern poets use to tell a story. They, the modernists, call it poetry, but it is really prose with a twist!

And so I go on with my 1880s style which requires work from the wordsmith. Anybody can write the other kind.

I told you in the beginning that I would make some people livid for taking on the free-verse types, but that's how I feel.

Call me an old stick-in-the-mud, if you like, but I loved my sainted mother's poetry. It always rhymed.

It was she who taught me to appreciate power-hour, table-fable and flag-nag. So it's out-of-date, but then so is James Whitcomb Riley, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and John Greenleaf Whittier.

See, I promised you I would make you mad like I did the sparrow lovers. I won't answer your letters, incidentally.

� 2006 Robert F. Karolevitz

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