Slant rhyme or half rhyme, sometimes called near rhyme or imperfect rhyme are words that come close to rhyming, but they really don’t rhyme. (Said / regret, or find / friend.)
Emily Dickinson is best known for her use of slant rhyme. They are a common characteristic of her poetry as is her unconventional punctuation.
I will admit, my original thoughts about slant rhyme were confining. I was under the impression that Dickinson (and others) used slant rhyming merely to increase the possibilities of word choice. This, in turn, would allow the poet greater flexibility and increase his/her ability to convey meaning.
In searching the internet for thoughts on the advantages of slant rhyme usage I came across a site, www.Chegg.com. In their definition of slant rhyme the author states, “Many poets use slant rhyme to introduce an element of the unexpected and prompt their readers to pay closer attention to words themselves rather than the sounds of the words.”
This makes perfect sense. It is this unexpected inconsistency that challenges the reader and adds what Paul Fussell, in his book, Poetic Meter & Poetic Form describes as: counterpoint, modulation, tension, interplay and variation.
Ezra Pound states that “Most arts attain their effect by using a fixed element and a variable.”
slant rhyme is that variable.
Fussell also talks about poets who put much attention into meter with no variation. He states that their poetic “metrical regularity makes them remarkably easy to memorize and recite.” In other words, there are no surprises. Their expectancy is the very essence that makes the poem and breaks it as well.
By using slant rhyme, Dickinson not only increases her word choice, thereby increasing her ability to convey the very essence of what she intends, she also gains the ability to surprise the reader, adding tension to her poem and taking her poems to heights far above a fixed element and into the world of art as Ezra Pound insightfully recognized.