How to Write a Limerick by Esther Spurrill-Jones, The Word Artist

An illustration of the fable of Hercules and the Wagoner by Walter Crane in the limerick collection “Baby’s Own Aesop” (1887) under CC BY-SA 2.0 license

The limerick packs laughs anatomical
Into space that is quite economical.
But the good ones I’ve seen
So seldom are clean
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.
Leonard Feinberg, The Secret of Humor (Rodopi, 1978)



There was an old man with a beard,
Who said: ‘It is just as I feared!
Two owls and a hen,
Four larks and a wren
Have all built their nests in my beard.
-Edward Lear

Most people have heard or read a limerick, even if you don’t read poetry as a rule. A limerick is one of the most fun forms of poetry, as it is meant to be tongue-in-cheek.

Lear by Wilhelm Marstrand / Public Domain

Edward Lear is probably the most famous, or at least the most prolific, limerick writer. He is credited with popularizing the form. His pieces are pretty much pure nonsense, while other poets often create “bawdy” limericks.

A limerick is a five-line poem with a strict rhyme and rhythm. The rhyme scheme is aabba and the rhythm is anapestic (dadaDUM). This gives the poem a bouncy feel that suits the light subject matter.

Lines 1, 2, and 5 are anapestic trimeter and lines 3 and 4 are anapestic dimeter. This means the first, second, and last lines have three stressed syllables, while the third and fourth have only two. With the two unstressed syllables for each stressed, the lines don’t feel overly short. There are nine or ten syllables in the longer lines and five or six in the shorter ones. There is some variance in syllable count as you can drop the first unstressed syllable of each line if you like.

Technically you can use the limerick form for any subject matter you like, but if it’s not silly, is it really a limerick? Here’s one I did with more serious subject matter. Does it feel like a “real” limerick? I don’t know. I don’t really think so.

Spring is a season of birth,
As winter lets go of the earth.
The days become longer;
The light becomes stronger,
And we put off our furs and go forth.

The style doesn’t really lend itself to the subject matter that well. Nonsense words fit better, don’t they? But you can do whatever you like if you write your own.

Here’s a better one I wrote recently:

Overdrawn

If you don’t have the money to cover,
And the debits come out and go over,
Be sure that the fees
Will advance your unease,
And assist you in going e’er lower!

It’s not nonsense, but it is a kind of dark humour.

You’ll notice that I used some near rhymes rather than exact rhymes. For more information on how to do this, check out my article on rhyming HERE.

Now, it’s your turn. Find something silly or annoying or whatever to write about and try your hand at crafting a limerick. Have fun!

Originally published in The Writing Cooperative, a Medium Publication. Shared here with Esther’s permission.

© 2020, Esther Spurrill-Jones

ESTHER SPURRILL-JONES (Esther Jones, I Just Live Here) is a poet, lover, thinker, human. She tells us, “I am not an open book although I wish that I could be. A part of me is all you see—the rest is hidden deep inside. Words have always been my art. They dance for me and sing for me. They laugh for me and cry for me. They are my paint and brushes. They are my clay.”  Connect with Esther: FacebookTwitterMediumInstagramBlog; Email; Amazon.


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The Poet by Day officially endorses Bernie Sanders for President.

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“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

FOR LITERATE CATS AND THEIR HUMANS

Grandkitty Dahlia reads The Efinitive Anthology of Distinguished Feline Verse
Grandkitty Dahlia reads The Definitive Anthology of Distinguished Feline Verse

“Was this the puss that munched a thousand mice
And napped atop the towers of Ilium? ….”
excerpt from Mephistopheles by Christopher Marlow’s Cat

In Xanadu did Kubla Kat A splendid sofa-bed decree With silken cushions soft and fat A perfect feline habitat

“In Xanadu did Kubla Kat
A splendid sofa-bed decree
With silken cushions soft and fat
A perfect feline habitat…”
excerpt from Kula Kat by Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Cat

Henry Beard’s Poetry for Cats, The Definitive Anthology of Distinguished Feline Verseis a must for literate cats and their humans, especially if said humans love cats as much as they love poetry. Beard does a fine job with his parodies, keeping the meter and rhyme of original poem and capturing the idiosyncrasies of cats in the way that only someone who lives with them and loves them could. The book is dedicated to Serafina – “il miglior gatto” – the best catThat says it all, doesn’t it?

“And though your human sweetly calls his pet
Or rants and raves until his face is blue,
do not go peaceable to that damn vet,
Hide, hide, when your appointment time is set.”
excerpt from Do Not Go Peaceable to That Damn Vet by Dylan Thomas’s Cat

The book includes some forty parodies of poems by poets of renown including Chaucer, Donne, Blake, Shelley, Kilmer, Ransom, Nash and Ginsberg and three she-poets: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Emily Dickenson and Gertrude Stein.

The elders among us will remember American humorist Henry Beard (b. 1945) as one of the founders of National Lampoon.  His other books include French for Cats, A Cat’s Night Before Christmas, A Dogs’s Night Before Christmas and Zen for CatsBeard wrote humorously about Latin, Golf,Lord of the Rings, political figures, and other topics. His Amazon page is HERE.

Poetry for Cats is well-crafted and just plain fun, relief in a world that is forever dishing up strife and stress. No spewing hairballs on this one. Dahlia gave it a paws-up and her humans – my son and daughter-in-law – loved it too. It makes a sweet gift, which it was in this case.

13550802017232

Thanks to Embarcadero Jack for photographing Dahlia reading. (What can I say?  Grandkitty is a very smart cat.)


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Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication. I currently run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers. My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation PressThe Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman. My poetry was recently read by Northern California actor Richard Lingua for Poetry Woodshed, Belfast Community Radio. I was featured in a lengthy interview on the Creative Nexus Radio Show where I was dubbed “Poetry Champion.”


The BeZine: Waging the Peace, An Interfaith Exploration featuring Fr. Daniel Sormani, Rev. Benjamin Meyers, and the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi among others

“What if our religion was each other. If our practice was our life. If prayer, our words. What if the temple was the Earth. If forests were our church. If holy water–the rivers, lakes, and ocean. What if meditation was our relationships. If the teacher was life. If wisdom was self-knowledge. If love was the center of our being.” Ganga White, teacher and exponent of Yoga and founder of White Lotus, a Yoga center and retreat house in Santa Barbara, CA

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.” Lucille Clifton

LITERARY CAT: FEAR AND LOATHING BY HUNTER S. THOMCAT

10171815_772930856050697_1409395107752009146_n-1Literary cats: As with all cats, you just have to love them.

Unknown-7“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like ‘I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive…’ And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: ‘Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?'” Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (A Savage Journey into the Heart of the American Dream) by Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005), American Journalist  (gonzo journalism) and writer

cat, impfilp.com

 


ABOUT

Testimonials

Disclosure

Facebook

Twitter

Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication. I currently run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers. My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation PressThe Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman. My poetry was recently read by Northern California actor Richard Lingua for Poetry Woodshed, Belfast Community Radio. I was featured in a lengthy interview on the Creative Nexus Radio Show where I was dubbed “Poetry Champion.”


The BeZine: Waging the Peace, An Interfaith Exploration featuring Fr. Daniel Sormani, Rev. Benjamin Meyers, and the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi among others

“What if our religion was each other. If our practice was our life. If prayer, our words. What if the temple was the Earth. If forests were our church. If holy water–the rivers, lakes, and ocean. What if meditation was our relationships. If the teacher was life. If wisdom was self-knowledge. If love was the center of our being.” Ganga White, teacher and exponent of Yoga and founder of White Lotus, a Yoga center and retreat house in Santa Barbara, CA

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.” Lucille Clifton

“Mofia Cats” … because everybody needs a laugh today!

51yug4jh7yl-_sx324_bo1204203200_I discovered Roger McGough’s work awhile back and in fact posted this before. I’m doing so again because – as I said the headline – we need some laughs. Life’s gotten entirely too serious.

McGough’s range is broad from humorous to serious and  he has about fifty published books.

“Yes, you can feel very alone as a poet and you sometimes think, is it worth it? Is it worth carrying on? But because there were other poets, you became part of a scene. Even though they were very different writers, it makes it easier because you’re together.” Roger McGough

The gentleman is from Liverpool. Of  a certain age, he takes his inspiration from the Beats. It seems he belongs to several poetry societies and has a bit of alphabet soup after his name indicative of honors of the British Empire: CBE – Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and FRSL – Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. I’m always happy to see poets honored in this way. Okay. Here goes … Smile! 🙂


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