Should poetry rhyme?

Many classic and well-known poems rhyme but should they all? We spoke to some well-known Ugandan poets as they shared their thoughts on the concept of rhyme in poetry.


Bash Fahad Mutumba – Filmmaker, photographer, poet and digital content creator

It depends on the poetry you write. If we go back to the time of William Shakespeare, at that time poetry had to rhyme as a must. To be called a witty man, a writer, you had to speak in rhyme. All of Shakespeare’s sonnets had to rhyme and they had a specific pattern. The first line rhymes with the third line, the second line rhymes with the fourth, and it goes on like this until the last two lines rhyme together. There were fourteen lines of each sonnet, that is, a poem of the time. So rhyme has always been a must.

But in this new era, there’s something called “free verse,” you don’t have to rhyme while you’re doing it. It’s the newest type of poetry that people are actually writing. You can rhyme if you want, but it’s not required. Now it’s more about the beat you deliver.

Free verse gave birth to the poetry of the “Speaked word”. In the past, poetry was synonymous with singing. The singers were called poets and they played instruments so you can’t say they didn’t rhyme. For singers like Bob Dylan, in 70s singing, rhyme was a must.

At this time, it is no longer a must. Look at contemporary poets, even our own Ugandans like George the Poet, the rhyme is not intentional. This is no longer the greatest aspect of poetry. If you listen to “Love Poem Medley” or “A Lot Like You” by Rudy Francisco, it has changed a lot.


Kagayi Ngobi – Theater poet, author and editor

If you ask me, I say “Yes!” Poetry must rhyme because the language of poetry is the language of memory and for the words to stick, the mental images must resonate with the sound qualities of the piece. The aspect of poems having an easy-to-remember sound is something that I think should be an integral part of poetry.

Now the question is, “How do you make a poem rhyme?” This is a question to which different cultures respond. For example, among the Baganda, in what they call okutontome poetry must have a rhythm – a cadence that the words must have. This for me is an integral part of the rhyme. The words you need to use should have a consistent sound quality that is easy to remember.

Timothy Wangusa defines poetry as “words about to turn into song”. So in order to be able to create that malleability that the ears can easily or easily consume and the mind easily stores, the aspect of rhyme is important and different cultures can define how rhyme can be used.


Nsubuga Devin aka quote the poet – Poet

There are many poetic devices. If I omit one, that doesn’t make it any less of a poem or a bad poem. This idea is that you use what you choose to use to tell your story in the best possible way.


Good Gordons Mugoda aka Wake up the poet aka Mwana Weika – Spoken word artist, poet and rapper

No, I don’t think poetry should rhyme. Poetry is just words taken from paper. Poetry is like painting with words, there really is no form. It’s just the poet who is responsible for where he wants the emotions in the words to go. The rhyme is dope. I like to rhyme, personally, as a style, but certainly not all poems have to rhyme.


Angel Kabera – Word Poet, Soet and Singer

Should poetry rhyme? I do not think so. Rhyme is one of many poetic devices that can be used. Yes, most poems (free verse/metric) tend to have a rhyme scheme, but it doesn’t have to be. I actually think rhyming has become so cliched that it’s the easiest poetic medium to use.

A play can be beautiful without rhyme. Puns, structure, irony, sarcasm, etc. could be excellent substitutes for rhyme. Yes, poetry doesn’t have to rhyme.


Nekesa Mangeni – Poet, performer and student

Nope! In my opinion, it’s not necessary if you have other ways to make it musical. There’s rhythm and other techniques like assonance, consonance and likes to make it musical. It should be musical in its nature and we can achieve that without using rhymes. Not using rhyme is called free verse. It doesn’t have to rhyme but must be musical. Usually the rhyme helps, but if you can achieve it another way, that’s okay.


Mitch Isabirye – Spoken word artist and environmental consultant

Poetry shouldn’t rhyme and I personally tell people who try to write that sometimes if you focus on the rhyme you lose the message because you’re trying to catch the rhyme. So I advise if you can’t control the rhyme to keep it simple or relax.


Bridget Ankunda – Poet, writer and student

I think poetry doesn’t have to rhyme because language can be so beautiful even without rhyme. I think musicality is what people confuse with rhyme. A poem can be musical without rhyming. There are so many things you can do with language like puns. But I understand that for most people what they mean by rhyming poetry is that it has to be musical and the musicality can be provided by a beat. Most of the time I write things that don’t rhyme but sometimes when I write I feel the music.

So, where I stand, I think people confuse musicality with rhyme, but it’s not the same thing. A poem may contain music without rhyme.


The end

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