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Presto Manifesto!

Seventh in a series of eight manifestos.
Introduction
“Rhymes are not good Victorian children, to be seen and not heard.”

The freedom to not-rhyme must include the freedom to rhyme. Then verse will be “free.”

All rhymed poetry must be rhyme-driven. This is no longer to be considered pejorative.

Rhyme is at the wheel. No, rhyme is the engine.

Rhyme is an engine of syntax: like meter, it understands the importance of prepositions.

English is not rhyme poor. It is only uninflected. On the contrary, English has a richness in rhymes across different parts of speech; whereas in many other languages, rhyme is often merely a coincident jingle of accidence.

There are no tired rhymes. There are no forbidden rhymes. Rhymes are not predictable unless lines are. Death and breath, womb and tomb, love and of, moon, June, spoon, all still have great poems ahead of them.

Rhymes may be so far apart, you cannot hear them, but they can hear each other, as if whispering on a toy telephone made of two paper cups and a length of string.

Rhymes do not need to be hidden or disguised: they are nothing to be ashamed of.

Rhymes are not good Victorian children, to be seen but not heard. Rhyme may be feminine or masculine, but not neuter.

Some rhymes are diatonic; some are modal.

Off rhymes founded on consonants are more literary than off rhymes founded on vowels (assonance). Vowels are shifty. Assonance is in the mouth, not the ear. It is performative.

Consonance brings forth what is different, so we listen for what is the same (harmonic). Assonance brings forth likeness; we listen for dissonance. The vowel is the third of the chord.

Translators who translate poems that rhyme into poems that don’t rhyme solely because they claim keeping the rhyme is impossible without doing violence to the poem have done violence to the poem. They are also lazy.

Rhyme is an irrational, sensual link between two words. It is chemical. It is alchemical.

April, silver, orange, month.

Rhyme frees the poet from what he wants to say.

Rhyme can also free a poem from fixed line length. A rhyme lets us hear the end of the line, so lines may be of any metrical length, or even syllabic, and still be heard.

Rhyme schemes.

Rhyme annoys people, but only people who write poetry that doesn’t rhyme, and critics.

See also: chime, climb, clime, crime, dime, grime, I’m, lime, mime, paradigm, pantomime, prime, rime, slime, sublime, thyme, Time.

  • A. E. (Alicia) Stallings studied classics in Athens, Georgia and has lived since 1999 in Athens, Greece. She has published three books of poetry, Archaic Smile (1999), which won the Richard Wilbur Award; Hapax (2000); and Olives (2012). Her new verse translation of Lucretius (in rhyming fourteeners!), The Nature of Things,...

Prose from Poetry Magazine

Presto Manifesto!

Seventh in a series of eight manifestos.
  • A. E. (Alicia) Stallings studied classics in Athens, Georgia and has lived since 1999 in Athens, Greece. She has published three books of poetry, Archaic Smile (1999), which won the Richard Wilbur Award; Hapax (2000); and Olives (2012). Her new verse translation of Lucretius (in rhyming fourteeners!), The Nature of Things,...

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