To rhyme, or not to rhyme…

This next post was going to be about the origin of my blog title, quilltokeyboard, but that will have to wait…

After reading my first post, several friends asked to read some of my poems. I was oddly struck by that.  It just didn’t occur to me, but then I thought, why not? I don’t intend to have this forum be a poetry site, but I’d certainly enjoy sharing some of my writing with my readers. And, in fact, poetry is the mainstay of my writing.  So here goes:

A sampling: rhymed and unrhymed.


He chased, I climbed the apple tree;
He climbed, I fell, and skinned my knee.
He promised, Snake, his pocket pet
Would “lick it better.” What did I get?
Two boys, and a matching fig-leaf set.

I’ve lost the keys to the Garden doors,
Now Adam burps, and farts, and snores,
And the house is littered with apple cores.

A friend once asked me to read my autobiographical poem, and when I questioned, “Which one?” she answered, “Eve’s Version.” I was taken aback, and then read the poem. Hmm…


(driving East along 121, Denton to McKinney, TX)

The farmers are selling out.
And why not?

Their neighbor’s cows now graze under billboards.
Warehouses and townhouses rise out of fields
that once yielded corn, milo,
alfalfa and coastal bermuda.

The black gumbo that clumps on boots
and sucks the shoes off horses
is rich, sticky with oil, flatulent with gas.
Bank drafts and gold coins are put on the table,
and this time, they reach down,
take the money, and go.

They have wondered about another life.
Curious to eat breakfast in their bathrobes,
linger over a second cup of coffee,
or the newspaper.
Watch morning rise from a back porch,
instead of the seat of a tractor.

But the muscles that ached
with the heave and haul of hay,
earth,  grain, and calf,
now ache for the lack of it.
And they are less for the loss of the land,
and the land, for the loss of them.

I wrote this poem almost a year after selling my 17 acre farm in Texas.  A sadness came over me when I wrote this, but I don’t think I realized this was my  farewell to something  I had nurtured and loved. When I read it a a poetry festival at Baylor University, months later, I could barely get through the last stanza, for the lump that gathered in my throat.

My farm: hayfield, hay barn, pond, and trees, trees, trees

view from the bridle path

view from the bridle path

And my two horses in pasture…


Rerun & Radar in pasture


A question I’m often asked is why some of my works are rhymed and some not. And how do I decide when to rhyme, and when to use another form, or free verse (which some think looks and sounds like chopped prose)? To be honest, I almost never “decide” on much of anything when a poem comes to me. As I play around with ideas and words, usually a line comes first, and that tends to dictate the form. If the line has a certain cadence, say, a lovely 5 beat rhythm, I might try to stick with that throughout, but sometimes the poem just goes its own way, and I follow. If the poem lends itself to rhyme, I play with a few until
a pattern falls into place. Then that pattern demands more of the same, and I wrestle until I’m satisfied that the rhymes “work,” and the pattern is complete. Sometimes I lose the
wrestling match. I have a drawer full of unfinished pieces.

The one exception to the question of rhyming is in my children’s poetry. There I almost always rhyme. It lends a sense of fun to a verse, satisfies a child’s need for “closure,” and makes the poem easy to recite, and then possibly, memorize. Rhyme, after all, was primarily the hallmark of early poetry, in a time when bards traveled the countryside, reciting long (Odyssey-length) poems to eager audiences, who looked forward to this entertainment. (Imagine that!)  The rhyming lines were designed to help memorization. This was, as I have to remind my incredulous students, back in the days before radio, movies, T.V., iTunes, iPods, and the internet. Horrors!

And here’s a example of a simple rhyming poem for children, that came about after a trip to an organic grocery store, where I saw my first rutabaga. (And what a wonderful word–rutabaga!):


Like a giant bowling ball,
You’re the biggest root of all.
Next to you in the vegetable bin,
The yellow parsnip looks pale & thin.
And the turnip’s looking mighty small–
Like a white and purple tennis ball!





About Nancy K. Carpenter

After 25 years in Texas, I've returned to Upstate New York to start a new life. In this journey, I've had to turn to my pen to make a living, as both a writer and teacher. One of my biggest challenges has been to catch up with the changes in technology that passed me by while I was raising my sons, riding horses, and raising hay on a farm outside Dallas. A writer, poet, teacher, and tutor, I have had to give up "fighting Gutenberg," as I used to say, and come to terms with the internet-- Macs, PCs, eBooks, iPads, and the world of cyberspace. These are my musings about life and the road that led me to this blog--my latest attempt to join the 21st Century.
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4 Responses to To rhyme, or not to rhyme…

  1. But the muscles that ached
    with the heave and haul of hay,
    earth, grain, and calf,
    now ache for the lack of it.
    And they are less for the loss of the land,
    and the land, for the loss of them.

    Stopped me like a set of new brakes. Glad you decided to share your work. That’s a heck of a start. Good Luck and don’t look back.

    • Nancy K. Carpenter says:

      Thanks for the encouraging words. Like many poets, aware of the great works out there,
      I have been hesitant to come out into the public light, but this blog just seemed to be
      the right place. And I get to talk about something I am passionate about. And to people
      like you, who believe that writing matters.

  2. Drew says:

    I really like Eve’s Version. Have you written more like that?

    Glad to find your blog – come visit when you can.

    • Hey Drew,

      If you mean have I written more short, tight, sarcastic rhymed verse, yes. If you are referring
      to the actual theme–of the disillusion of a relationship, yes. Which might you like to see/read?
      And some of the relationship poems are of the first sort too. It just comes to me that way. I
      don’t set out with the form in hand. The subject matter determines that. And the moment.
      Thanks for checking in. Nancy

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