Poems that Don’t Rhyme
Several years ago, a couple friends asked me what my opinion was of poems that didn’t rhyme. They seemed to be in the strict rhyming poetry camp, but I assumed the position that there’s nothing wrong with a poet eschewing rhyme if that same poet can write poems that do.
What I didn’t mention to either of them at the time was that I was a fan of a poem that doesn’t rhyme. The poem is by Amiri Baraka, and I’m not talking about “Somebody Blew Up America”. The poem in question is “Something in the Way of Things (In Town)”, and I was hooked when I heard him recite the lines in The Roots’ Phrenology. Here’s an excerpt:
The dead guy you saw me talking to is your boss.
I tried to put a spell on him,
But his spirit is illiterate.
I know things you know
And nothing you don’t know
I saw something in the way of things
Something grinning at me and I wanted to know, was it funny?
Was it so funny it followed me down the street
Greeting everybody like the Good Humor Man
And they got the taste of good humor
There was a slight problem, though. I had no clue whether Baraka had written a poem that does rhyme, which feels a bit hypocritical given the position I’ve assumed. So today I went in search of poems by Baraka that might rhyme. The closest one was “Monday in B-Flat”:
I can pray
But if I call
in a minute!
I guess this means I’m okay with poems that don’t rhyme.