Internal Rhyme in Poetry: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Heather Lanier

Heather Lanier has eight years of college-level English teaching experience. She holds an MA in Teaching and an MFA in Creative Writing.

In this lesson, we will define internal rhyme, explore the reasons why a poet might use this poetic technique to affect his or her audience, and identify examples of it in modern poetry.

Definition of Internal Rhyme

Rhyme is the repetition of the ending sound of two or more words, such as cat and bat. Both words sound similar because they end in at. Internal rhyme in poetry is a rhyme that appears in the middle of a line of a poem.

Why Poets Use Internal Rhyme

When poet Richard Blanco read his poem at the 2012 Presidential Inauguration, Twitter lit up with complaints. The poem didn't rhyme, and listeners were annoyed. 'I thought poems were supposed to rhyme!' people wrote. 'This isn't a poem,' they said.

What these listeners expected was what the poetry world calls end rhyme, or rhymes at the end of lines. For example, take this classic ditty:

Roses are red, violets are blue,

I like rhymes, and so do you.

You can probably easily see how these two lines rhyme. Blue and you both end in an ooh sound. Some readers might expect that a poem will follow a traditional rhyming pattern, or rhyme scheme, by ending lines with a rhyme.

But a reader of modern poetry will quickly see that most poets of today do not actually use end rhyme, which can sometimes be too reminiscent of a Hallmark card. And yet an important quality of poetry is the musicality of the words a poet uses. Poets think of the rhythm of their words, but they also think of the sound.

One way for modern poets to write poems that avoid the sing-songy quality of end rhyme but still please the reader's ear is to use internal rhyme. Remember, internal rhyme is a rhyme within a line rather than at the end of it.

Examples of Internal Rhyme

Let's return to Richard Blanco's inaugural poem. In fact, we don't have to look past the first two words to find internal rhyme! Here's the first half of the opening line:

One sun rose on us today…

Did you hear that internal rhyme? One and sun rhyme. Most likely, Blanco did not drop an internal rhyme into the first two words by accident. Like most masterful poets, Blanco has an ear trained in the musicality of language, and he's attempting to write a poem that will be pleasing to read aloud.

Here are some other examples from different works. Can you spot the internal rhyme? You might try reading the lines aloud to enjoy the sounds fully.

The jar was round upon the ground. - Wallace Stevens, 'Anecdote of the Jar'

As they lean over the beans in their tented back room… - Gwendolyn Brooks, 'The Bean Eaters.'

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