My Pagan-based problem with poetry

Doreen Valiente, 1962
Doreen Valiente, 1962 (Photo credit: carbonated)

There’s this line of thought among contemporary poets that poetry should not rhyme. That’s an old-fashioned thing that only shows a new poet’s lack of exposure to what’s out there. The reasons are good: poetry is meant to push boundaries. It’s likely the single best way to understand language and comment on all aspects of culture and shaking off constraints/trying out new constraints is sometimes the only way to find our way to the concepts new and old that merit exploration. Language is culture and culture is language, etc. etc.

I’ve been hanging out with poets lately. (Those who knew me in my “poetry for the inner sociopath” days have reason to find this very surprising.) It’s a really solid workshop full of really solid writers – the type that I actually listen to.

Unfortunately, I have a rather large cultural conflict with the anti-rhyming sentiment. The argument put forth is that rhyming isn’t part of contemporary communication for poets. Pop singers are sort of looked at askance in this respect. (No one mentions Jewel, or Dessa, or even Billy Joel when such pronouncements are made.) Therein lies my own cultural conflict: modern Pagans – even Reconstructionist Pagans – do you rhyme. Most of us have ancient poetry and modern spell writing as core to our personal practices.

Among the non-Pagan poets, rhyming is an archaism.

Among Pagans, rhyming without sounding twee is a modern concern.

Aleistar Crowley started it – even though he was mostly awful – but Doreen Valiente was the one who made it actually launch. We rely on the somatic signals brought on by well crafted rhyming. While we often say a spell is better done in rhyme and outright doggerel is just fine (thank you Scott Cunningham?) it’s been my own experience that a badly written spell is badly spoken and thus not as successful. A well written rhyming spell is infinitely more successful, particularly when crafted with numerology written into the meter, word and letter choice. Most of the time, when it sounds good it already fits those formulas without additional tweaking.

I don’t see myself bringing rhyming spells to my poetry workshop anytime soon. It’s a mixed group and as far as I know I am the only regular Pagan that attends (others have come and gone – most of whom, while lovely, were not people I was on the same page with.) There’s already been expressed discomfort about topics that are exotic to other members that are just part of my every day life.

Still, it’s a strange conundrum. Maybe non-Pagans don’t rhyme their poetry – but I am Pagan and I do. I rely on it.