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
Howdy! Welcome to another month of Anyone Can Poem.
I enjoyed reading what y’all wrote last month, when we explored poetic parody. If’n you’re still in the mood, check it out and write to the challenge.
Now, on to more fun! Dust off your chaps and boots and cinch up your saddle straps. We’re going to jump into common poetry forms, beginning with haiku.
What is haiku?
Haiku is one of the most basic forms of poetry you can write, with the exception of replicating Ogden Nash’s “Fleas.” Despite this simplicity, an excellent haiku can still produce serenity of mind.
Furthermore, YOU can write an excellent haiku.
- Think of a subject. It’s traditional to use something from Nature, but no one says you can’t poem about ice cream.
- Frame your subject into very, very simple terms. If your subject is ice cream and you want to write about its melting, think, Cream hot melt. That’s right: I want you to jot down words like someone writing a telegram who only has seventeen cents to do so.
- Start writing! Actually write Cream, Hot, Melt. Write more; why not Chocolate Desires Now Sidewalk? Or, Mint Chip Pavement?
- DO NOT HESITATE. DO NOT ERASE. There is no wrong way to do these steps, apart from skipping out from fear of mistakes.
- Look over what you’ve got, and open your fingers. Count the syllables of your chosen words and split them into three lines of 5 syllables, then 7 syllables, then 5 syllables.
- Look over what you’ve got again, and edit as needed for clarity. Some haiku are rather nonsensical while others form a complete phrase or thought over the course of the three lines.
- Try to avoid rhyming. It is not necessary; plus, readers will assume you know what you’re doing if you don’t…
Repeat these steps as needed. Write several poems if you’d like! Who’s stopping you?
After you’ve had your fun, send your creation(s) my way through the form. You may also share a haiku or two in the comments for all of us to enjoy.
Cream hot melt pavement
Chocolate sidewalk desires
Mint chip dreams now gone
©2021 Chel Owens
Happy April, pard’ners! It’s about time for another session of Anyone Can Poem.
Thank you to everyone who stepped up to last month‘s challenge. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your poetic thoughts! Anyone and everyone is welcome to re-visit that post and fulfill the challenge; it’s an excellent first exercise for poets of all levels.
Now, before you panic and pretend you’re only here for the free peanuts, I’ll let you in on a few secrets:
- Parody is not difficult. Haven’t you heard the variants on “The Twelve Days of Christmas?”
- You can do this. How do I know? Elementary students run around the playground singing, “Jingle Bells! Batman smells! Robin laid an egg!”
Maybe I should’ve used more seasonally-appropriate examples.
The important point is that parodying poems is simple. Don’t get offended if that’s your go-to, because ‘simple’ does not mean parody can’t be difficult. Simple, in this case, means it’s an easy place to start. Plus, like in an aerobics video, I’m going to have three levels of difficulty depending on your comfort level.
STAGE ONE: Parody a nursery rhyme. I recommend “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or “Little Jack Horner.”
Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow;
And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go….
© Sarah Josepha Hale
Little Jack Horner
Sat in the corner,
Eating a Christmas pie;
He put in his thumb,
And pulled out a plum,
And said, “What a good boy am I!”
© Mother Goose
STAGE TWO: “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” or “This is Just to Say”
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter….
© Clement C. Moore
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
© William Carlos Williams
STAGE THREE: William Shakespeare, Emma Lazarus, or William Wordsworth
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
“Sonnet 18,” © William Shakespeare
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
“The New Colossus,” © Emma Lazarus
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze….
“Daffodils,” © William Wordsworth
The ‘rules’ are also simple: pick a stage (one, two, or three) and write a parody or pastiche. You can include it in the comments, or fill out the form and share it with only me.
Not sure where to start? Read over one of the included poems a few times. Think about how it could apply to another subject -perhaps to something humorous or to a topic that deeply resonates with you.
Change the original poem enough to fit your new subject, but retain some vestiges so that people know to what it refers. This can be done by keeping some of the words, especially those that rhyme; by rhyming with the words in the original; or by writing of similar happenings but with a different animal.
Harry had a giant ham,
Its skin was black as sloe;
Everyone who smelled its scent
Said, “Hey! That ham must go!”
Yeah… it’s a work in progress. You can do better. I know it. In fact, get on that ‘doing better’ right now! You’ve got a month; I can’t wait to see what you come up with!
©2021 Chel Owens
Well, howdy! My name’s Chel Owens and I’ve a small confession to make: I’m not much of a rancher. The closest I’ve gotten to a rodeo is watching “McLintock!” The closest I’ve gotten to a saloon is to use the bathroom at a bar during a road trip.
What do I know? Poetry. And -believe me- poetry is amazing. It’s clever, awful, silly, serious, snarky, sincere, and beautiful.
Take Ogden Nash:
Some primal termite knocked on wood
And tasted it, and found it good!
And that is why your Cousin May
Fell through the parlor floor today.
Or, William Shakespeare, the master prose-smith:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Poems are the beat of life; the catchy jingle we hum whilst eating French fries (chips); the wandering phrase we think as our heart flutters in love.
Poems also terrify a large number of writers.
That’s why I’m here. Or Pal and Kid said I could use the bathroom. Either way, I’m up on this stage and I’m going to get you to write poetry. Everyone can write poetry, just like everyone can write. We each have a voice that needs expression and is beautiful when it finds itself.
So, for this introductory post, I’m not going to ask much. All I want is for you to take yourself on a date.
You heard me.
Get yourself alone, somewhere safe. If you can, go somewhere beautiful and inspirational. The catch is that I want you to bring along a notebook and writing utensil. Yes, I want paper and a pen. No, I don’t want those new-fangled electronic devices.
Step two is to get comfortable.
Third, soak in your surroundings. Meditate. Find your happy thoughts.
After all of that, I want you to word dump prosaically. Write words, phrases, observations, descriptions, and even the odd knock-knock joke –all in the form of a freelance poem.
Once you’re ‘finished,’ you’re allowed to look it over and lightly edit. Maybe you misspelled epiphany and it’s bothering you; you are allowed to fix that word. Perhaps you really hate how you compared a winter’s day to your ex-husband’s drinking habit; you may compare the snowscape to something more appropriate. The only thing you are not allowed to do is crumple up what you wrote and throw it into the saloon’s toilet.
If you’re comfortable, return to your computer thingy and share your masterpiece with me using the submission form. If not, I’ll settle on an “I did it, Chel” in the comments or through the form.
You can do it. Believe me. I can safely say that I have seen the worst poetry ever, and yours is not it.
Lather, rinse, repeat. We’ll have you poem-ing in no time.
©2021 Chel Owens