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Response to Tiel Aisha Ansari’s Objections 2

I closed the first part of my response to Tiel Aisha Ansari’s criticism of my new rhyme terminology by saying that the mention of structure brought me to her most fundamental objection. She is bothered that my nomenclature

risks broadening the definition of “rhyme” to the point where it loses all usefulness.

This comment grows out of her adherence to the terms assonance and consonance, discussed in the previous post in this series. She says she is “not entirely prepared to agree” with my “assertion” that “these relationships are in fact rhymes”.

To a certain extent, the assertion is not mine, at least not originally. It belongs primarily to those poets who have used and who use relative rhymes of any kind in their rhyme schemes. The examples I give are drawn from poems, a fact that Ansari overlooks at certain points. For example, when she calls sang:work “another Philips [sic] example”, she neglects to state that it comes from Wordsworth’s “The Solitary Reaper” and, instead of engaging with the relationship that I sketch in the relevant post, simply says:

If there’s a relationship there, I’m not hearing it.

That’s why it’s a remote rhyme. There’s no identity, but there is a relationship between the corresponding segments in the fellows, even if the /w/:/s/ relationship is fairly distant. But, perhaps most importantly, they’re clearly in a position in which, given the rest of the poem, one would expect a rhyme. They’re the a rhymes in the last stanza. Interestingly, the a fellows in the first stanza constitute a removed rhyme; in two middle stanzas, they are fraternal rhymes, as in all the other rhymes throughout the poem. Wordsworth’s use is therefore clearly structural: there’s a signal of opening and closing.

It strikes me that what Ansari misses in her insistence on maintaining a purity of twin rhyme is this structural nature. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory states:

Rhyme has two main functions: (a) it echoes sounds and is thus a source of aesthetic satisfaction. … (b) Rhyme assists in the actual structure of verse …, simultaneously opening up and concluding the sense.

The sang:work rhyme fulfils both these functions: it echoes sounds, though more weakly than most rhymes in the poem by echoing features rather than segments; through that weakened relationship, it performs a structural function.

But I can still see why Ansari might be reluctant to admit that as a rhyme. And she would probably respond by referring me to the following comment from her post:

these poems [Armitage’s “Kid” and “Poem”] present an overall impression of rhyme, though any particular perceived rhyme may silverfish away when you grab for it.

Well, to my mind, if it patterns like a rhyme and functions as a rhyme, it’s a rhyme. To an extent, I can appreciate her reticence about the Armitage pieces and my attempt to parse them (though less so for “Poem” because of obvious structural features that clearly invoke the sonnet), but I don’t accept it.

What would Ansari say about poets intermingling twin and relative rhymes? Are those not rhyme schemes? If they are rhyme schemes, how are the relative rhymes not rhymes? And what does she think about Wilfred Owen? I note that she avoids all reference to him, although I devote most of a post to his rhyme practice. I simply can’t see how she can say that his peripheral rhyme schemes aren’t rhyme schemes.

Moreover, traditional terms such as half rhyme, which The Penguin Dictionary defines as:

The repetition in accented syllables of the final consonant sound but without the correspondence of the vowel sound. … a form of consonance”,*

demonstrate that I’m not the first to recognise the way these patterns have been used and theorise about such relationships as rhymes. It might not please Ansari to hear that the dictionary’s entry for “head rhyme” is “See ALLITERATION.”

That brings us back to the aim of my terminology: a coherent, comprehensive nomenclature that is based on and points up the different degrees of featural relationship. Ansari is free to use as much or as little of it as she finds useful. In fact, she’s most welcome to do so and I’d be delighted if she adopted any of it! However, I hope I’ve made her reconsider her objections. I’ve certainly enjoyed the debate so far!

I’ll tie up this defenceI by clearing up a couple of smaller misunderstandings. In discussing a rhyme from “Kid”, Ansari says that her terminology and mine both

make no reference to the fact that the unstressed syllables correspond, which actually is to my ear the defining feature of the Armitage poem in question.

I agree with the defining-feature-of-the-poem bit, but she’s wrong about the terminology: longer:larder is a compound removed:identical rhyme. Compound rhymes are discussed here.

Also, Ansari says of strong:stink:

Note that it’s not a remote rhyme because there’s no relationship between the nuclei. I think.

For her benefit, I’ll repeat the definition of remote rhyme from the post on the basic terminology:

there is no identity, but all segments in the syllable exhibit some relationship to their partners in the other fellow.

Therefore, strong:stink can’t be a remote rhyme because there are two identitical segments in the onsets (st and st), even if there is an additional segment in one fellow. Hope that’s helpful.

*In other words, removed rhyme, if we’re not talking about identical onsets, which the definition simply ignores, even though there is onset identity in peer:pare, one of the rhymes in the Emily Dickinson stanzas given as an example (the first two of this poem), which, of course, makes it a peripheral rhyme.

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