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Line Binding

Rhyme is one of the most commonly thought of forms of line binding. In other words, it is something that ties poetic lines together internally and externally. The repetition of the sounds brings different parts of the poem together. It echoes that other part. There are several other forms of line binding that a poet can use:

  • Line repetition/refrains—Obviously, this is more poem binding than just line binding, but it is a frequent occurrence in several types of closed and open forms. For instance, two refrains are used in the villanelle. In the rondeau, part of the first line is repeated as a refrain. In many types of song, there is a whole repeated chorus.
  • Consonance—This is the repetition of consonant sounds, such as are found in bound/band/bind/bond, Trike/trach, tike/take/toke, etc. One can use consonance at the end of lines, much like rhyme, or binding middle and end together. It can also be used as a form of hyper-alliteration. While there are no forms I know of that specifically call for strict consonance, there are some where the poet is called on to use assonance, consonance, or similar sound-echoing techniques in place of true rhyme.
  • Assonance—The repetition of vowel sounds. This might be used in one of two ways. First, it can be internally to a line: The danger was plain and grave. Or, it can be used as a form of half-rhyme to bind separate rhymes with the assonance at the ends of lines. One might assonate grave with waif, or do something similar.
  • Alliteration—Like assonance, alliteration can be used in two ways. Alliteration is the repetition of a consonant sound, usually at the beginings of words or on stressed syllables: The Singleton Sox Slaughter the Sizemore Saddlers. (Yes, this device is most often seen today in sports headlines and team names: Seattle Seahawks, Lansing Lugnuts, etc.) It can be used as half-rhyme, but tends to be harder to detect than full consonance or assonance in binding the ends of lines. Cross-alliteration is another technique, where one might have two alliterative sounds going, one mainly in one line, the other mainly in the next, but an instance of each in the paired line, such as: He cut across the road catercorner, / and reaped the rage of cars that roared. There are several poetic forms that use alliteration as the primary basis for line-binding. Most of them are old Germanic/Anglo-Saxon/Icelandic/Norse forms that were swept aside by newer forms including true rhyme. Beowulf is a major Anglo-Saxon poem based mainly on alliterative accentual verse.
  • Consonant reversals—This is a binding trick that Shakespeare used often. If one uses a word in one line, like “risible,” in the following line, one might find use for a word with the same consonants in a different or even fully reversed order, such as “labours.”
  • Word repetition—While using the same word over and over in a poem can be distracting, it can also help bind a poem together. Jim Berkheiser’s “A Reflection” demonstrates the use of repetition to comic effect:

    A Reflection

    Donít trust the sight. 
    Itís just not right. 
    Itís all turn Ďround youíll see. 
    I look inside 
    And he canít hide, 
    But just stares back at me. 
    What I see is really me, 
    But not the me the way you see. 
    Iíll try to help you see, you see, 
    That I donít see the me you see. 
    For me to see the me you see, 
    Iíd have to see me on TV. 
    You see?

    Another example of word reuse is in the poems of the sestina family. There are limited numbers of end-words, and they are repeated in a different order in each stanza.
  • Rhythm—The use of the same rhythm can help bind lines together. While many forms specify rhythm, most of today’s poetry isn’t formal. One can make adjacent lines seem more strongly tied in a free verse poem by having them use the same rhythm.
  • Slant Rhyme—This is also called half-rhyme, near rhyme, and various other things. It covers the use of various devices related to rhyme, such as assonance and consonance. Depending on the definer, it can be a catch-all term or very narrowly defined.

So, for those who want to branch away from rhyme or compliment the rhyme you already use, there are many options for binding a poem’s lines more tightly together.

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