Working on a new poem tonight, it occurred to me - not for the first time - that a poem without rhyme stumbles about in a kind of shadowy half-life, looking in vain for completion ... for the suggestive, resonant closure that rhyme provides.
Rhyme is what launches the poem off into space, the white space of the page, the tense, humming space of the ear. It both confirms and undoes the poet's intentions, putting its finger on significant meaning whilst simultaneously pointing beyond it into a dark glimmering barely glimpsed or understood before the poem began to take shape. An awkward position to be in. But not all rhymes are equal. The full rhyme satisfies the listener with the certainty of the absolute, but closes off further echoes and possibilities in a way which risks deadening the poem, like beating a drum that's been muffled. The half-rhyme is delicate and ever so slightly shakes the poem off-balance, but its recovery is swift and the new path - the swerve in the plan - energises and inspires. Beyond those are the quarter-rhyme or sound echo: assonance, consonance, the tease of alliteration, the eye-rhyme, the breath falling on the air as it fell a bare moment before. Together, these all play their part in creating a living entity, something no longer inert on the page, the poem by a stranger that reaches into our memories and pulls out an emotion we didn't believe we possessed or that we'd put behind us years before.
If the verb is the soul of the language, the rhyme must be the soul of the poem. Without it, nothing ascends. Nothing transcends.