Term: Rhyme Scheme

A poem's rhyme scheme is the way its rhymes are arranged. Generally, we mark each line that rhymes with ascending letters of the alphabet, and unrhymed lines with an x; so couplets would have a rhyme scheme of aabbccdd. While this may seem obvious, it may be more useful when trying to describe a more complex stanza form, such as ottava rima, which has a rhyme scheme of abababcc. (Fred D'Aguiar's 'Bloodlines' is an example of this form.) Trying to describe the irregular distribution of rhymes in Charles Tomlinson's 'Jessica Learned to Kiss' is difficult in words, but it is easy to display as axa abbx ccdxdc xefxfe.

How to use this term

The rhyme scheme of David Harsent's 'Crapshoot' is aba bcddc - the stanzas and the rhyme scheme break in different places, which marries a poetic violence with the world-changing event within the poem.

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Daljit Nagra

From time to time a poet is in residence at the Poetry Archive, talking about poetry with anyone who wants to join in the conversation.

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I'm troubled, as you can tell by my introduction, about comic verse. Comic verse gets bad press because rigid notions of comedy foreground throwaway poems. Surely the best comedy is when the poem surprises us into laughter rather than setting up t... >