Discuss the rhymes in the Emily Dickinson poem "I Heard a Fly Buzz-When I Died".
Does the poem employ exact rhymes or approximate rhymes? How do the kind and pattern of rhyme contribute to the poem's effect?
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Emily Dickinson has a very distinct style in most of her poems. She uses a lot of dashes, unusual punctuation, short stanzas, dense lines, omission of unnecessary pronouns and words, and slant rhymes. Slant rhymes are rhymes that aren't exact; they kind-of rhyme. They aren't straight-forward rhymes, they come in more at a slant. So, in "I Heard a Fly Buzz-When I Died", she uses this type of rhyming. For example, look at the ends of lines 2 and 4. They contain the words "Room" and "Storm". While not an obvious and blatant rhyme, it is a slant rhyme; they both end in "m's" and contain "o's" for a rounded sound. The same applies for lines 6 and 8 that end in "firm" and "room". However, lines 14 and 16, ending in "me" and "see" are a straight-forward rhyme, not a slant rhyme.
Using slant rhymes helps the poems to have a lyrical and rhythmic feel, without being outright obvious about it. It makes her poems very flowing and graceful without the rollicking lilt (that often sounds nursery-rhyme-ish) that full-on rhyming sometimes has. It is a more mature, sublte, song-like quality that gives her poems soberness and layers. In this poem, death is the subject; a woman is dying, and at the end can no longer see. Death is a serious subject; to give the poem exact rhymes the entire time would make it seem to up-beat and bouncy. Slant rhymes give it the same flowing quality, the same serenity, without the boisterousness. I hope that those thoughts help! Good luck!
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