Why would you want a rhyming dictionary? After all, much of today’s poetry is free-form or blank verse where rhymes have been discarded in favour of the enigmatic, meaningful lines that stop you in your tracks. Rhymed poetry seems to draw you on relentlessly from one line to the next – great for narrative verse but not necessarily for the reflective, soul-baring poetry of today. After all, an attempt to rhyme leads you away from the stream of thoughts into a more technical quest linked to your command of vocabulary. Trying to find a rhyme can even seem to be a distraction, an straight-jacket confining your thoughts as though in tram-tracks, something which militates against pure art.
But even the most radical poets may wish to prove their ability at more traditional forms of verse. It doesn’t take much exposure to poets like William Wordsworth to discover that rhymed verse can be as moving and emotional as any freer form
“And trust that spiritual Creatures round us move,
Griefs to allay which Reason cannot heal;
Yea, veriest reptiles have sufficed to prove
To fettered wretchedness, that no Bastille
Is deep enough to exclude the light of love,
Though man for brother man has ceased to feel”.
In fact there are still many poets who still struggle with rhyming verse. Apart from those who love trying to write rhyming poems for the sheer love of it, there are rappers, song-writers, comedians, performance poets and many others who all need to find the perfect rhyme to make their verses flow – anyone who is interested in how their poetry sounds will soon find that rhyme is a technique they need to master.
I write songs and while I think I have a good memory for rhyming words, there are times when a rhyming dictionary is the only way out of a dilemma, and apart from those times when the lack of a decent rhyme holds me up, there’s nothing like looking up a word and finding all the possible rhymes in one place. Often consulting the rhyming dictionary will improve your verse by giving you better options to the one you started with.
For many years now I have relied on Walkers Rhyming Dictionary which was published in 1926 – a useful find in a second-hand bookshop. But it is definitely dated and in any case it does not use the best possible structure for letting you find an appropriate rhyme. I was therefore delighted to acquire the New Oxford Rhyming Dictionary which brings the idea of a rhyming dictionary right up to date not only in its inclusion of newer words, but also in a far more sensible arrangement.
The book is arranged around 35 sections which correspond to word endings. There are 13 sections of vowel-sound endings and 22 sections of consonant-sound endings. For example,
Section 1: -ar
Section 2: -air
Section 3: -ay
and so on.
In addition to this, an index at the back contains over 45,000 words and the number of the page on which the list of rhymes for that word can be found.
Notes among the section help you make additional rhymes of your own. For example, in the “-ee” section, a note says, “create extra rhymes for words like moggie by adding -gy to smog etc”. Another note says, “create extra rhymes by changing words like needy to neediness or to needier and neediest”.
Other notes in the book provide additional idea for rhymes such as the introduction of the the concept of a rhyming pattern based on a poem by John Donne, or the a short description of rhymes which emphasise opposite concepts like breath and death. These short notes can open up a new idea to enliven your verse.
A short introduction by John Lennard provides a very useful primer in rhyme. We read about the history of rhyme and the types of rhyme, and also includes many examples of rhymes as used in poems through the ages. The section “How to use this book” is brief but there is no need for anything longer as the book is easy to use.
As you would expect from Oxford, the book is very well presented, being nicely bound and printed on high quality paper. The font size is big enough that you won’t strain your eyes by looking at it.
I would recommend this book to anyone who writes poetry, whether the occasional dabbler or the professional poet. All would find it a useful addition to their shelves.
I’ve been having a short break from writing book reviews but still publish occasionally as here. Comments are still not enabled due to pressure on my time but will be resumed eventually!