Welcome, ladies and gents, to Anyone Can Poem, the rodeo where …well, anyone can poem.
Last time we were in the saddle, I introduced the basics of haiku. We used its general syllable outline to jump in and have some fun.
Where will we ride from here?
A limerick (/ˈlɪmərɪk/) is a form of verse, usually humorous and frequently rude, in five-line, predominantly anapestic trimeter with a strict rhyme scheme of AABBA, in which the first, second and fifth line rhyme, while the third and fourth lines are shorter and share a different rhyme.Wikipedia
I don’t know about you, pard’ner, but that was a whole chunk of intimidating text. -And limericks are not intimidating.
They’re fun. They’re edgy. They’re funny!
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!’
Like haiku, limericks follow a form. Myself, I find this form easy to write to once I pick up on the beat. Try reading Edward Lear’s (credited as being the master limerickist) contribution out loud. Still not hearing it? Here are a few more:
A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill holds more than his belican.
He can take in his beak,
Enough food for a week,
But I’m damned if I see how the helican.
-Dixon Lanier Merritt
Alas for the death of Hugh Hannity
Whose boat was capsized by a manatee.
When they saw it swim by,
All the townsfolk would cry:
“There he goes! Oh the beast! The Hugh manatee!”
Now do you hear it? Do you feel it? Anyone can poem a limerick, including me:
There once was a mother of four
Who never could sweep up her floor.
The clothes and the toys
Were stuck beneath boys.
Daddy wonders who taught them to swore.
- The pattern of AABBA and anapestic trimeter means that you start with two longer lines that rhyme. In the case of Lear’s poem, the rhymes are beard and feared.
- Next, you pick two shorter lines that rhyme with a different word. Again, with Lear’s, those words are Hen and Wren.
- Finally, you end with a zinger of the same length as the first two lines that also rhymes with them. Lear uses beard again -that cheater.
Whenever I set out to write a limerick, I first choose a subject. For today’s rodeo, let’s pick everyone’s favorite duty: cleaning up after animals. Not only will this subject fulfill the necessities of being somewhat inappropriate and humorous, it will provide many easy-to-rhyme words.
Some possible opening lines:
There once was a man named O’Coot.
There once was a grand rodeo.
I went to the show to just sit.
There! The most difficult part is over, especially since I picked some easy rhymers (except for rodeo). O’Coot can match up with poop scoop and boot and shoot! Sit, on the other hand, has at least one possibility amongst the thesaurus suggestions for animal excrement.
There’s no wrong subject or strict count for limericks if you’re worried. Many famous poets break the form left, right, and center. The main criteria is silliness and that recognizable rhyme pattern.
Send me a few samples through the form. Or, write one or a dozen up in the comments. You’ll love it and so will we!
Don’t overthink; just do it!
An embarrassing mess was my brother
With one leg that was short. Not the other
Which made this eccentric
Walk in circles concentric
Causing constant distress to our mother
(From the A Mused Poetry Contest)
©2021 Chel Owens