Sunday, 30 December 2018

5 Blunders to Avoid for a More Successful, Happier Year (No Resolutions Needed)

As Jan Edwards has already mentioned in her December 19 post, year-end is, for many of us, a time for taking stock of the previous year and setting goals for the new year. A great many people will make resolutions, the majority of whom will fail at those by February (27% within the first week of the year!). Resolutions typically take the form of 'I want to get healthy this year', or 'I want to be more successful this year', or I want to lose weight this year'. Or perhaps they're a bit more specific, such as 'I will stop eating chocolate', or 'I will exercise every day'. These are objectives that many of us can appreciate, many have as our own resolutions, and many of us fail at -- regularly and consistently. But why? Are they just too hard? Do they not really mean anything to us? Does life get in the way? And what does one learn after failing at the same resolution so many times?

Sadly, the answer to the last question is either 'very little' or 'not to try'. So what's the solution?

If you've been reading any self-help books in the last few years you likely already know the answer. SMART or SMARTER goals (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Risky, Time-Keyed, Exciting, Relevant). Such goals allow us to create concrete targets and therefore firm measurements of success. In addition, they can also help us create a path toward reaching them. None of this means they're a guaranteed path to success, but they provide a formalized environment in which to keep moving forward and they help us to understand what may have happened to stop us from reaching that goal. Perhaps, for example, there was an unexpected life change that took a lot of time or resources to deal with, or perhaps you just discover that your goal was unrealistic and you need practice in setting more reasonable goals. In either extreme and all the cases in between, having formalized goals helps in guiding actions in the current year, understanding what happened in the past year, and making plans for the future year.

There are a lot of books and courses out there about setting goals and I'm not going to go through these in this post. Rather, I'm going to discuss the five key blunders that allow people to sabotage their own success, as described by life management guru Michael Hyatt. I learned a lot from taking his Best Year Ever course last year. It helped me structure my year better and, although I still failed at some goals, I was successful at others. More importantly, it helped me forge a path forward, rather than continuing to meander through the wilderness. I highly recommend the course. Regardless, here are five key issues that might prevent you from setting realistic goals or achieving your goals, whatever they may be.

1. Sailing without a Destination

If you don't know exactly where you want to go, it's very unlikely you'll ever get there.
This is a big reason to use specific, measurable, and actionable goals instead of vague resolutions. Even if you don't reach your goal, at least you'll know how close you came and what you might do to get closer next time.

2. Charting an Impossible Course

If I'm honest, this is my biggest problem. I have trouble setting realistic goals. In my case, this tends to mean I think I can do more than I can and I end up planning for too many large projects. However, I'm confident now that I've started formalizing my goals and doing year-end assessments, that my goal-setting will become more realistic as I learn where I'm going wrong. A healthy number of goals is suggested to be no more than 7-10 goals per year (with goals from all domains of life -- see the end of the blog for more on this) meaning 2-3 significant goals for each quarter.

3. Staying too Close to the Shore

After failing at goal-setting or resolutions often, it's tempting to set safe, very achievable goals to build confidence. However, such goals don't tend to move us forward. Michael Hyatt suggests considering goals as falling into one of three zones: the Comfort Zone, the Discomfort Zone, and the Delusional Zone. Effective goals fall into the Discomfort zone, where we're always forced to learn and work hard to achieve them. As he suggests:
"If your dreams are inside your comfort zone, they're not really dreams." 
4. Losing Your Bearings

It's easy to get side-tracked from our goals. The year is long (although it doesn't always seem that way) and there are many distractions that appear throughout. However, having a well-formulated set of goals, and reviewing them regularly, is a great help in staying focused. This can be aided even further by keeping goals visible, perhaps as a print-out posted on the wall where they can be seen at relevant times. And it helps to review them each day.

5.Sailing without a Crew

Something everyone needs to help them through the difficult and trying parts of being a writer (or any other self-guided career) is a supportive and helpful community. Sometimes this includes friends and family, but not all the time, as (1) they might not understand the difficulties you're going through, (2) they might be unable to be constructive in their feedback. Furthermore, when sharing your goals with your community, you want to be selective. Psychologists have discovered that if you tell everyone your goals (e.g. posting on social media) you're less likely to be successful, possibly because the act of posting the goals itself feels like success. So, they suggest you should only share your goals with those actively working to help you achieve them.

Ensure your Goals Include all Aspects of Your Life.

I'll leave you with one other thought. Your goals should include all aspects of your life in order to create a work-life balance. If they don't, one of the domains you've neglected will, more often than not, begin affecting the other domains. Perhaps your health gets worse stopping you from working, or maybe your relationship begins to fail, distracting you from your writing. Or maybe you just begin to wonder what it's all about and why you should continue to push yourself. Michael Hyatt suggested there are ten life-domains one should consider: physical, work, hobbies, social, spiritual, emotional, financial, parental, marital, and intellectual. Not everyone will have all ten, but most people will have to manage at least eight of these in some way (e.g. spiritual may not refer to a relationship with a deity, but at some point, almost everyone has to come to terms with their place and purpose in the world).

Here is a link to one website for such an assessment. The LifeScore Assessment

It's important to realize that this does not give you what someone else thinks should be good for you, but rather it's an assessment of how satisfied you are with aspects of your life, and thus represents a guide to use when considering what your goals should be.

With the new year only a little over a day away, I wish the best of luck to you and yours and I hope you fulfil your goals and dreams in 2019.

Happy New year!

Edwin H Rydberg is a science fiction writer and futurist. He can be found at his website Alternate Futrues, or at various events hosted by Promoting Yorkshire Authors.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

In Memory: N M Browne

Today would have been my father’s birthday - a once forgettable date, lost between Christmas and New Year which led to rather a meagre birthday present haul. I never forget it now.
 He died twenty eight years ago, a few months before his 58th birthday, the very same age that I am now and I still miss him desperately. 

   He was a painter who gave up painting for twenty years - from my early childhood until his early (and too brief) retirement. He gave up because it was impossible to combine painting with earning enough to support us. He was good at what he did and exhibited widely before I was born. Would he have ‘made it’ if he’d carried on? Maybe. Did he regret the sacrifice ? I don't think so.

    Anyway, the struggle to find time to teach, paint, and be a family man was too much. I still have a portrait of me he began when I was about four. I outgrew the dress I was wearing before he was able to finish it, which says it all. Consequently, I grew up with the knowledge that doing what you love is a privilege not everyone can afford.

   My father always fostered my ambitions, even my mad decision to give up teaching, study for an MBA and become a business woman. He thought I was bonkers, but supported me none the less. He died before I discovered what he had always known - that I wasn’t really that kind of person. 

I began writing only after his death, when suddenly life seemed short, precarious and altogether too precious to waste on work I hated. I had always wanted to write ‘one day,’ but dying days are certain and ‘one days’ aren’t. 

   He never saw me published and never met three of my four children.
Whenever things go badly with my writing, which if I’m honest is often, I wonder what his advice would be. Would he tell me to stick with what I love, to seize the day, or to face up to economic realities as he had to do? 
   You hear so many stories of authors having huge success after many bleak periods of obscurity but you don't hear anything about the ones who carry on to no avail. I suppose the newsworthy story lies in the exception, the unexpected and not in the more common truth. 'Success' of course means different things to different people and I know that he cared most about producing good work, and later relished the pleasure, the luxury of having the time to produce any work at all. 

I have no answer to the conundrum and still, after all this years, I long to ask him and hear his. 

( A version of this post first appeared on in 2010)

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Bad Times For The World Can Be Good Times For Writers - Andrew Crofts

Image result for becoming by michelle obama

“Becoming” by Michelle Obama is just as good as everyone says, and made this reader nostalgic for a time of hope and optimism which seems to have been eclipsed for the last couple of years.

One of the most endearing features of the story for anyone who has ever harboured ambitions to write for a living, (besides the $65-million dollars the author and her husband are reputed to have been paid by the publishers), is that in the early years of his political career Barack carried the same fantasies of writing a book and making enough money from it to deal with their growing expenses as every other would-be author. Like most of us, the initial sales figures of his first book were nothing like the bonanza he had been hoping for, but of course in the long term they more than fulfilled his dreams.

The really great news is that the recent disturbances in American politics have created a number of best sellers. The whole Trump phenomenon was kick-started by a book, “The Art of the Deal”, and the Obama family’s well publicised love of books helped to make reading cool for eight years. The various books about Trump, from “Fire and Fury” to “Fear”, have further fed the publishing beast. So maybe bad times for the world are actually good times for writers.        

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Family Lessons from Olive Kittridge by Dipika Mukherjee

It is the season for families and feasting; and for some of us, the season to catch up on books we've wanted to read through the year but never did.
Which is how I -- FINALLY -- read Olive Kitteridge by the fabulous Elizabeth Strout

This is a book that won the Pulitzer Prize and is now an HBO miniseries. It interlinks short stories around the central character of Olive Kitteridge, a female curmudgeon whom the reader meets at various stages of her life, as seen through different eyes. Olive is wonderfully nuanced as a character, as are the rest of the cast. 

This is also a season of forced jollity and family tensions and this book, by making us empathise with a misanthrope, is a master class on how to love the people in our lives, warts and all.  My favourite story was "Security", and as Olive grapples with parenting mistakes and a grown-up son, the story is excruciatingly painful and heartwarming at the same time.

 The message driven home by this book is perfect for this time: “Had they known at these moments to be quietly joyful? Most likely not. People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it.” 
On this Christmas day, I am now curled up with another amazing book, and a dog, and a steaming cup of tea, while family bustles around. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and may the season bring books, and more books, and even more in 2019!

Dipika Mukherjee is a writer and sociolinguist. Her work, focusing on the politics of modern Asian societies and diaspora,includes the novels Ode to Broken Things (Repeater, 2016) and Shambala Junction (Aurora Metro,2016). LanguageShifts Among Malaysian Minorities as Effects Of National Language Planning:Speaking in Many Tongues, her co-edited collection of academic essays, was published by Amsterdam University Press (2011). She has been mentoring Southeast Asian writing for over two decades and has edited five anthologies of Southeast Asian fiction. She now lives in Chicago. 

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Christmas Day: It's A Mad Mad World -- by Susan Price

Exactly a year ago I wrote a post comparing our politicians and their shenanigans to a pantomime.

A Bigly Christmas 2017 To You

Sorry to spoil your Christmas again, but -- A whole twelve months have passed; more than twenty-four since the referendum. And are we any clearer about anything?

Grimaldi: public domain
Oh no we aren't!

Will we Brexit? Won't we? Is it behind us?

Our government is certainly beneath us.

The past year has left me -- and you too, I've little doubt -- with an uneasy feeling that we've slipped through some uncanny border into a world of strange perspectives and surreality which makes the Pantomine Land seem almost normal. For hours, you think you're in the old, sane world and then you hear of Trump's latest tweets. Or you hear that Karen Bradley, the MP appointed secretary for Northern Ireland has cheerfully told some reporter that, fancy, the Northern Irish community is somewhat divided! Gosh, who knew?!

Follow link for credit
An English woman, allegedly educated and intelligent, reached the age of nearly fifty and entered politics without becoming aware of anything about the history and politics of Northern Ireland -- and was then appointed secretary of state for Northern Ireland.

Palm to forehead. Whaaa-aa-at?

While your world is still rocking from that, Raab, the Brexit secretary lets us know that 'he hadn't quite understood,' that the sea-port of Dover is really rather important for bringing goods into Britain from Europe.

Oh, come on, you mockers, why should this Member of Parliament and Secretary for Brexit have understood that about Dover? There it is, this large town, built by sheer coincidence at the very spot where the sea between us and Europe is narrowest, with this huge ferry port and harbours and customs' posts and all that sort of thing. Why would anyone imagine for a moment it had any special relevance to the carrying of goods across the sea? Anymore than, say, my home town of Oldbury which may be in the Midlands but has several fine canals?

Let's not forget, though, that importers and hauliers have been telling the government for two long (oh god, so long) years that Brexit will cause a solid gridlock at Dover as the lorries entering and leaving the country are held up by customs. That the queues in customs will destroy the haulage firms that operate on the 'just-in-time' supply system and will seriously damage the productivity of the many companies, car companies among them, who rely on their materials arriving 'just in time' as they run out of the last batch.

 For two years they've been saying this, over and over. You heard them. I heard them. 

How come it's a complete surprise to the man who was the second Brexit secretary before he resigned (ran away) like the first one? (And the last Prime Minister.)

Head on knees.

These ministers. let's always remember, are from the self-described 'natural party of government.' And 'the party who understands business.'


As I write this, at the start of December, there was a little wrapped parcel behind the door of my advent calendar and Parliament have just declared the government in contempt for failing to publish, when requested, the full extent of the legal advice on Brexit.

A contemptible government in every sense of the word, and yet as I write, they're still in power.

That was written at the start of December.

As I write now, it's mid-December. May promised Parliament a vote on what she likes to call 'her deal' and what others call her 'fantasy.'  Parliament, after all, is supposed to be where the power lies in this country. You might say they have not only a right but a duty to vote on the deal.

But May decided she wouldn't let them vote after all, because she wouldn't win and that wasn't fair.

The ridiculous but nasty ERG crew of  far-right wing Brexiteers then tried it on with a vote of no-confidence against May. The air was alive with Tories singing May's praises while sharpening their daggers and swearing that she had their full support while on their way home to prepare for Prime Minstership. But May won. Just.

And off across the Channel she went again. She has been backwards and forwards across the Channel more frequently than any of those ferries from Dover that came as such a surprise to her ex-Brexit minister, Raab.

She has appealed to the EU collectively and to leaders of EU countries singly. Please, please, please, pretty please, can the UK have all the benefits of being in your club without paying any membership fees or obeying the rules? She's been told, "No," in English and every European language. Perhaps if they tried it in Klingon?

And on and on this goes, while all the foreign diplomats in England put their heads in their hands and go, "Wh-aa-aa-at?"


December 19th

May has just announced that she is preparing to crash out out of the EU without a deal and has put 3,500 troops on standby to deal with 'disruption.' So, despite all the reassurances that leaving the EU would be 'easy' and profitable, with the NHS suddenly rolling in money, this 'natural party of government' is expecting 'disruption' as a result.

(Interesting word. Disruption means 'disturbance or problems which interrupt an event, activity, or process.' So what we're talking about here is 'protest,' right?)

Isn't that just the kind of news you want to hear a week from Christmas? (And it was brought to you by Tories, folks.) And, two years ago, would you ever have imagined you'd be reading those headlines about Britain? (Those headlines were created by Tories, folks.)

If nothing else, this gives me an insight into my dear old Dad. When I was young, he used to exasperate me by insisting on watching and listening to every news broadcast on every station. I used to recite reports with the newsreader because I'd already heard them three times that day in exactly the same words.

He eventually gave the explanation that he'd grown up during WWII when everyone tuned into every broadcast because something might have happened and they needed to know.

Dad, now I understand.

I rarely watch News broadcasts on television, or listen on radio, because they enrage me too much. Film of Tory politicians can have me chewing the rug. If I'd seen film of Tories taking photo opportunities at the food banks their policies made necessary, I wouldn't have been responsible for my actions.

Instead, I read the news online, usually in the Guardian which, not being owned by a Tory donating billionaire, can be relied on for varied and reasonably unbiased reporting. Reading about Tories posturing at food banks is enraging enough but not quite as maddening as seeing them and hearing their mealy-mouthing.

But I'm reminded of my Dad when I find myself obsessively refreshing the news pages several times a day because something might have happened. Such as troops being prepared to 'take back control' of the streets of my country. 

I am honestly not exaggerating when I say that I think, if we got together some bright sixth-formers of good will -- sourced from a range of schools and areas -- and gave them, say, a month's intensive briefing on the EU and economics -- they would do a far better job than this contemptible, dishonest, malicious and incompetent, ill-informed stupid bunch we're stuck with because of our lousy political system.

Please, please, everyone, remember that it was the Tories who brought us Brexit.

It's a Tory-Blue Brexit. If we ever get another election, if we're allowed one, remember that the Tories created all this chaos and the chaos that's coming. It's the Tories who're planning to put troops on the streets to put down 'disruption.'

Can you wait for what the New Year will bring? Onwards and downwards, eh?

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Lev Butts Lists the Best of Self-Publishing VI

Well, it’s been a bit since I last posted about my ongoing countdown of the best self-published books I’ve found. So lets get right to it.

Rooted- Idabell Allen

Pick your own cover! Personally, I like them both,
though the punk rock cow really speaks to me..
I have to admit that when I first read this book, I had no idea that it was self-published. I met Idabell Allen at a conference in New Orleans in September of last year. She was presenting a paper on the podcast S-Town (and if you haven’t heard that podcast, do yourself a favor and start downloading it now) and mentioned in passing her own novel about a misfit in a small Southern town, which she described as “Sid Vicious stuck in rural Tennessee.”

Being a huge Sex Pistols fan from all the way back in high school, and being a Southern lit scholar since grad school, obviously this was an idea I found all too intriguing.

Total punk and rule-breaker right there.
During the luncheon, she and I found ourselves at the same table, and we fell to talking about our own writing habits and interests.

A few weeks later, I was surprised to find a copy of the book in my office mailbox. I enjoyed reading it so much, I added it to the book list for my upcoming Southern literature course, and asked Ms. Allen if she’d like to Skype in and discuss her book with the class. It was during our preparations for that presentation that I learned the book was self-published. 

Rooted tells the story of Grover McQuiston, an irascible old man and genuine son of a bitch who, in his twilight years all but owns the small Tennessee town of Moonsock, but who is as isolated now as he ever was as a poor no-account bootlegger in his youth. When the story opens, he is trying to marry off his alleged granddaughter, a young girl named Sarah Jane and the daughter of a dysfunctional alcoholic who claims Grover’s son got her pregnant before dying in Vietnam, before she embarrasses him further by having an affair with an older woman. That Sarah Jane is not gay makes no difference to Grover, who only cares what the town gossips believe.

Into this turmoil, another alleged grandchild arrives in town: Slade Mortimer, aka The Roaming Mortician and the lead singer of the New York punk band Mortified. Slade is in town to receive his inheritance from his father’s estate,but he will have to prove first that he truly is the son of Grover’s best and oldest friend who ran away with Grover’s underage daughter more than twenty years ago. 

Grover finds himself having to face his darkest secrets and his shameful past as he struggles to find a way to understand these two estranged grandchildren, bury his wife, and accept that he is not in control of anyone, much less himself.

The book is genuinely funny, evoking the styles of Faulkner, Welty, McCullers, and O’Connor without descending into imitation. Allen has her own distinct voice and enough working knowledge of both the New York punk scene of the 1970’s and rural Southern life, to make her settings believable without sounding didactic. Equal parts laugh-out-loud funny (Grover’s staid insistence on propriety is the perfect foil to Slade’s barely controlled anarchy and vice versa) and heart-breakingly tender (I dare you to keep a dry eye during the denouement), this book is my current favorite work of modern Southern literature.

The students loved it as well, and like me, they had no idea it was independently published until thy discussed the book with Allen in class. 

I am very much looking forward to Allen’s next novel, and very happy with having it as the first self-published novel I ever taught in a college class.

Give it a read and let me know what you think about it in the comments, and let Allen know what you think of it in the reviews section of her Amazon page.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Christmas Greetings from a previous century. Ali Bacon reflects on how words change

Fraught can be a good thing!

Once again a friend whose interest in early photography merges into all kinds of printed ephemera has sent me a very charming Christmas card, which I guess is Victorian or possibly Edwardian and reads May your Christmas be fraught with every pleasure. But popping it on the mantle piece I had to read it twice because of course it sounds a little odd to our ears.  Feeling fraught around Christmas is hardly unusual but that's not usually the source of pleasure. 

So off I went to do some googling of definitions. Oxford Living Dictionaries:
"fraught with (of a situation or course of action) filled with or likely to result in (something undesirable)"
Yes, as I thought, but I guess there must at one time have been a usage without the negative connotations and Merriam-Webster provides the information that 'filled with' is the key concept.  Originally 'fraught' meant simply laden, as in a ship laden with cargo. (In fact the word freight is of similar derivation). Then it began to denote 'loaded with' or 'abounding in' in a more figurative sense. From there  it was a short step to meaning loaded with something unwanted, or simply 'characterized by emotional distress or tension'.

So there we have it. Once fraught became fraught in a bad way, it looks like there was no going back. And here we are a few days before Christmas and unless you are super-organised (or maybe even if you are super-organised) you are probably feeling fraught with that unavoidable tension. (The cake! The cranberries! The crackers!)  So I hope this little relic of days gone by is a reminder that things can be fraught with pleasure. And as that other poem says:  may it happen for you!

Happy Christmas

Ali Bacon writes contemporary and historical fiction. Discover more on her website

Friday, 21 December 2018

Wishing you a peaceful Winter Solstice - Katherine Roberts

At the time of writing I do not know if my 87-year-old mother will still be with us at Christmas. She was rushed into hospital with a severe stroke at the end of November, and has not yet regained her swallowing or speech. She's still being fed via a tube in her nose and is obviously not going to be tucking into turkey and all the trimmings any time soon. So this year, in my family, the usual run up to Christmas is turning into a subdued jog around various hospitals to visit her (she's been moved a couple of times), interspersed with quiet moments at home when I just can't seem to get into the mood for any festive decorating, xmas shopping, writing sparkly cards, or any of the other frantic preparations that usually accompany this time of year.

This has, strangely, been blessing. I have some fresh candles and I've placed a few simple items around the house to mark the season. A silver reindeer tea-light holder. A Scandinavian-style reindeer wreath (because they don't make unicorn ones). A silver star. An extra string of fairy lights (I'm the kind of person who likes to keep a few fairy lights up throughout the year). But we're not having a tree, and we're definitely cutting down on presents. There are no young children to disappoint in our family, and nobody else seems to want any expensive gifts this year. I know I don't. I've been running around in circles for most of this year stressing about publishers and agents, fluctuating book sales, falling author incomes, the rapidly rising pension age (particularly if you're a woman of a certain age), the housing market, rising sea levels that delay the trains, and of course Brexit (though there's not very much I can do about any of them), while doing welcome part-time work with university students as a Royal Literary Fund Fellow to pay the bills, but when death comes knocking this close and this hard, nothing else seems to matter very much, only the love we share.

This Winter Solstice, I invite you to pause and remember your loved ones. If they are gone, light a candle for them. If they are still with you, make them stop running around in circles for a few minutes, sit them down and tell them that you love them. Don't wait for Christmas. Do it now, before it's too late.


When she's not running around in circles, Katherine Roberts writes fantasy and historical fiction for young readers. You can find out more about her books at

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Ramblings about rhyme by Sandra Horn

What with it being That time of year and the Big C word looming, I’ve been singing the odd carol now and then. I love them – but I think some of them have problematic bits. For example: 

1.       If I never have to hear ‘Gaudete’ again I won’t mind, thanks.
2.       ‘Very God, begotten not created’ – who writes this stuff?
3.       ‘When like stars, his children crowned, all in white shall wait around.’ Tutting and checking their watches, no doubt – ‘Where’s He got to now?’
4.       In dulci jubilo: stuck for a rhyme? Bung in some Latin, that’ll do.

I wasn’t keen on singing ‘While Shepherds Watched’ to the tune of ‘On Ilkley Moor Baht ‘At’ either, but the Vicar said it was the original tune – and by the way, little known fact (by me, anyway): there are more tunes for ‘While Shepherds’ than any other carol. I pass this on in case it ever comes up in a pub quiz/Christmas Trivia, etc. 

This was by way of a somewhat-sideways and twisted introduction to the real meat of the matter: the striving after rhyme and the horrors thereof.  I was once doing a school visit and asked the children what a poem was. ‘It’s short, rhymes and doesn’t make sense,’ quoth a child. The teacher smiled and nodded at her approvingly, which rather took the wind out of my sails. In another school in spite of trying to wean the kids off the idea of rhyme-at-all-costs, one spent ages trying to work out how to include the word ‘ponder’ in his poem because he needed something to rhyme with ‘yonder.’ Another one nearly gave himself a nervous collapse because he has a shipwreck caused by a tornado (I expect he hadn’t come across dado, but perhaps that’s just as well). I had begun to despair, but these were all primary school children, and when I worked with secondary level kids, the obsession with rhyme had disappeared and they had a much more sophisticated grasp of poetry – not surprisingly. Younger children are more exposed to jingly nursery rhymes and songs – quite right too and great introduction to rhythm – and later, as they read more widely, their grasp of the possibilities of language develops. 

Obvious? You might think so, but there are adult writers of poetry around who seem stuck in that earlier developmental stage and use anachronisms, twisted sentence structures, oddities like ‘they did go’ instead of ‘they went’etc.  – anything In order to get a rhyming word on the end of a line.  Perhaps they were brought up on Tennyson and Wordsworth, who had it easy in some ways because the more formal language structures of their day allowed for rhymes that sat naturally, but aping Victorian English now doesn’t really cut it.  

Some of the most successful modern rhymers are songwriters. Brilliant Cole Porter, for example. He’s often quite brazen and also very funny: 

‘You’re the top, you’re Inferno’s Dante,
You’re the nose of the great Durante,’
Or, from Brush up your Shakespeare (Kiss me Kate):
‘If she says your behaviour is heinous
Kick her right in the Coriolanus’

And some, like Ogden Nash and Pam Ayres, are just outrageously cheeky, for the fun of it. Here’s Nash cursing the creations of the maker of a hat bought by his wife:
‘I hope he has a lot of ‘em,
That hundreds he has got of ‘em.
I hope he has a harem
And all his spouses wear ‘em!’

And here is Ayres reflecting on the state of things today:
‘Nowadays we worship at Saint Tesco,
At first the neighbours seemed a little shocked,
But then, Saint Tesco’s doors are always open,
Whereas Saint Cuthbert’s doors are always locked.’

It may not be very deep and meaningful, but it’s pithy and to the point.

Then there’s Edith Sitwell, hardly modern now, I suppose, but who sometimes wrote words-as-music as in Facade and rounded the poetic but sometimes nonsensical lines with rhyme, very satisfying, as is a rounded musical phrase:

‘Green wooden leaves clap light away,
Severely practical, as they
Shelter the children candy-pale,
The chestnut candles flicker, fail,’ 


But rhyming with serious intent is often a much more problematic affair. The slightest hint of contrivance and it’s dead. How to make a rhyme fall so naturally that it’s hardly noticed except that it feels ‘right’ is a considerable issue for a poet. Rhymes are not so much used now, it seems, and instead we tend to delight more in the subtleties of metaphor, rhythm, musicality, the ‘Aha!’ experience of the well-turned image – as in Norman Nicholson’s description of dandelion clocks, ‘held like small balloons of light above the ground.’ for example, or Alice Oswald’s River:

 ‘the earth’s eye
Looking through the earth’s bones
carries the moon carries the sun but keeps nothing.’ 
No need to mourn for rhymes when the poets of free verse give us so very, very much.

Cole Porter, Ogden Nash, Pam Ayres, Edith Sitwell, Norman Nicholson, Alice Oswald