George the Poet

A lot of classic and well-known poems rhyme but should they all? We spoke to a couple of well-known Ugandan poets as they shared their ideas on the concept of rhyme in poetry.

Bash Fahad Mutumba – Filmmaker, Photographer, Poet, and Digital Content Creator

It depends on what poetry you are writing. If we go back to the times of William Shakespeare, during those times poetry had to rhyme as a must. For you to be called a witty guy, a writer, you had to speak with rhyme. All Shakespeare’s sonnets had to rhyme and they had a specific pattern. The first line rhymes with the third line, the second line rhymes with the fourth, and it goes on like that until the last two lines that would rhyme together. They used to be fourteen lines of each sonnet a.k.a a poem of those times. So rhyme was always a must.

But in this new era, there is something called the “Free verse”, you don’t have to rhyme while you’re doing it. It’s the newest type of poetry that people actually write. You can rhyme if you want to but it’s not a must. It’s now more about the rhythm you are delivering.

Free verse brought the birth of the “Spoken word” poetry. Back in the day, poetry was synonymous with singing. Singers were called poets and they would play instruments so you can’t say they didn’t rhyme. For singers like Bob Dylan, in the singing of the 70s, rhyme was a must.

Right now it’s no longer a must. Look at the current poets, even our own Ugandans like George the Poet, the rhyme is not intentional. It’s no longer the biggest aspect of poetry. If you listen to Rudy Francisco’s “Love Poem Medley” or “A Lot Like You”, it has changed a lot.

Kagayi Ngobi –  Theatre Poet, Author, and Publisher

If you ask me, I say “Yes!” Poetry has to rhyme because the language of poetry is the language of memory and to make the words stick, the mental pictures must resonate with the sonic qualities of the piece. The aspect of poems having a sound that is easy to memorize is something that I believe should be part and parcel of poetry.

Now the question is, “How do you make a poem rhyme?” That is a question that is answered by different cultures. For example, among the Baganda, in what they call okutontoma poetry has to have a beat – a cadence that the words should have. That for me is all part and parcel of rhyme. The words you have to use need to have a sonic quality that is uniform and easy to memorize.

Timothy Wangusa defines poetry as “Words on the verge of breaking into song.” So to be able to create that malleability that ears can easily or readily consume and the mind readily store, the aspect of rhyme is important and different cultures can define how rhyme can be used.

Nsubuga Devin a.k.a Devis The Poet – Poet

There are very many poetic devices. If I leave out one it doesn’t make it less of a poem or a bad poem. That idea is that you use what you have chosen to use to tell your story in the best way possible.

Good Gordons Mugoda a.k.a Wake The Poet a.k.a Mwana Weika – Spoken word Artist, Poet, and Rapper

No, I don’t think poetry has to rhyme. Poetry is just words coming off paper. Poetry is like painting with words, there is no form really. It’s just the poet that is in charge of where he wants the emotions in the words to go. Rhyme is dope. I like to rhyme, personally, as a style but most definitely not all poems should rhyme.

Angel Kabera – Spoken word Poet, Soet, and Singer

Well does poetry have to rhyme? I don’t think so. Rhyme is one of the many poetic devices one can use. Yes, most poems (free/metric verse) tend to have a rhyme-scheme, but it’s not compulsory. I actually think rhymes have become so cliché that it is the easiest poetic device to use.

A piece can be beautiful without rhymes. Wordplay, structure, irony, sarcasm, etc could be great substitutes for rhyme. Yes, poetry does not have to rhyme.

Nekesa Mangeni – Poet, Performer, and Student

No! In my opinion, it does not have to if you have other ways of making it musical. There is rhythm to it and other techniques like assonance, consonance, and the likes to make it musical. It should be musical in its nature and we can achieve that without using rhyme. Not using a rhyme is called Free verse. It doesn’t have to rhyme but must be musical. Usually, rhyme helps but if you can achieve it in other ways then it’s okay.

Mitch Isabirye – Spoken word Artist and an Environmental consultant

Poetry shouldn’t rhyme and I personally tell people trying to write that sometimes if you focus on the rhyme you lose the message because you are trying to catch the rhyme. So I advise if you can’t control the rhyme keep it simple or chill it out.

Bridget Ankunda – Poet, Writer, and Student

I think poetry doesn’t have to rhyme because language can be so beautiful even without rhymes. I think musicality is what people confuse for rhyme. A poem can be musical without rhyming. There is so much that you can do with language like puns. But I understand that for most people, what they mean by poetry rhyming is that it has to be musical and the musicality can be provided by a beat. Most times I write things that don’t rhyme but sometimes when I’m writing I feel the music.

So, where I stand, I think people confuse musicality with rhyme but it’s not the same thing. A poem might have music in it without rhyming.


Josh Ruby is an Editor with high interest and knowledge in the Ugandan entertainment space, an industry he has been actively part of since 2010. Leads to breaking stories are welcome!

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