Merriam often revealed what she thought of poetry and its use: in speeches, essays, and workshops or sharing sessions and in her poems, even those for the young. “Inside a Poem,” the opening of It Doesn’t “Always” Have to Rhyme, reveals that Merriam considered poetry as rhythm, rhyme, and perfectly chosen words arranged to provide a unique experience or moment in time available nowhere else.
This volume is rather eclectic in that it presents several themes and poetry forms under the umbrella of language appreciation. It reveals her broad range in the poet’s use of rhythm and rhyme and in her love of language in general. Further demonstration of Merriam’s versatility may be observed in the provocative imagery of such poems as “Simile: Willow and Ginkgo,” “Leavetaking,” and “Solitude.”
The importance that Merriam placed on rhythm and rhyme in poetry is addressed directly and indirectly (through example) in “Inside a Poem.” It begins
It doesn’t always have to rhyme,but there’s the repeat of a beat, somewherean inner chime that makes you want totap your feet or swerve in a curve;a lilt, a leap, a lightning-split:—
One may observe that while there are four regular beats in each line, there is a fascinating pulsating rhythm caused by variance in the number of unstressed syllables in different lines (thereby increasing or decreasing speed), punctuation, internal (and unexpected) rhyme, and insightful use of consonants and long and short vowel sounds. All of this strongly enhances the meaning of the poem. This sort of manipulation of elements is characteristic of Merriam’s work. She uses rhythm and rhyme often and well, but always to enhance meaning.
(The entire section is 787 words.)