To rhyme or not to rhyme—that was the question posed yesterday during “Conventions of Rhyme in Contemporary Poetry,” a conversation with two area poets.
Melissa Range and Austin Segrest—both pursuing doctorate degrees at the University of Missouri—debated the merits of true rhyme during an hour-long forum at the Hugh Stephens Library.
Many writers dismiss traditional rhyming—the end-of-line true rhymes common in 19th century poetry—as being childish or too flowery. Range, however, encouraged students to be open to it. In-your-face rhymes, she said, aren’t merely decorative but rather add to the layers of meanings found in poetry.
She also countered the notion that traditional rhyme is old-fashioned when she read Randall Mann’s “Queen Christina,” a contemporary sonnet about a dying man who unsuccessfully attempts to hide his declining state by dressing in drag.
Segrest said he favors more subtle, near rhymes—words that have a similar vowel sound or consonant ending—the sorts of rhymes one might find in popular music.
Both poets read selections that backed their preferences, as well as original works.
Range is the author of Horse and Rider, a 2010 poetry collection that won the Walt McDonald Prize in Poetry. She is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, a “Discovery”/The Nation Prize, and fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Her poems been published in 32 Poems, The Georgia Review, The Hudson Review, Image, New England Review, The Paris Review and other journals.
Segrest’s poems have appeared in The Yale Review, New England Review, Shenandoah, Ploughshares and Threepenny Review, and are forthcoming in Harvard Review and Western Humanities.
The lecture was part of the Writers on the Edge Series at Stephens, which brings notable writers to campus.
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