An article in WRITING MAGAZINE (Aug 2014), by novelist Paula Coston, spoke of the correspondence regarding poetry that passed between her and JRR Tolkien (her grandparents next-door-neighbour) when she was a child.
Tolkien, (who also wrote poetry; much of it appears as songs in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit), had this to say about the writing of verse (defined as ‘writing arranged with a metrical rhythm, typically having a rhyme’.)
“All writers know that sometimes in order to “rhyme” they have to say something that they did not mean to say, or want to say, though they may try to conceal that… But all verse writers (who write in regular metres or patterns) also know that their imagination will be stirred by the actual struggle to find a rhyme or a word that will fill the place, and they may end by thinking and saying something better than they first intended”
“I think…that it is best to start by practising the fitting of words into verse patterns, including rhymes and other difficulties, rather than to try and express oneself and let the verse go to pieces“…but, he sighs, “it does not seem today a very popular view.”
Throughout my writing life, I have always been given the impression that the use of rhythm and rhyme in poetry is seen as somewhat inferior to blank verse. In my opinion both are difficult, but in different ways. By limiting yourself to words that rhyme, the inference is that you are stunting your own creativity but I have found what Tolkien refers to is true. The restriction of choice on your writing means you have to dig deeper into your imagination to make the writing work. The poem I am working on at the moment (I’m In Love With The B3306) has reinforced in me the view that Tolkien was right.
Much of my own poetry I refer to as doggerel, embracing the pejorative rather than shunning it…in much the same way that ‘ nigga’ (black people), ‘queer’ (homosexuals) or ‘crip’ (disabled) have been reclaimed within the communities which once deemed them insulting. Then again maybe I am getting ideas above my station…
I particularly like the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary’s definition of doggerel, which is…
loosely styled and irregular in measure especially for burlesque or comic effect; also: marked by triviality or inferiority
There that should get me down off the station roof. Ultimately (apart from the odd darker poem), I write in the hope of making people smile…if I manage to get a laugh so much the better.