Weekly Poem Project

Weekly Poem Project #1: a limerick

I get the sense that people are afraid of poetry. This should not have come as a shock to me since I encounter it all the time in class, but I have to admit, I did not expect to find such trepidation among all my erudite, eloquent friends & acquaintances! My kind brother Kevin, somewhat timidly, suggested the limerick as a way to ease into this whole weekly poetry-writing thing … which was seconded by my sister-in-law Krista. While I was expecting more of a challenge, ok, I’ll bite.

So– you all know what a limerick is, right? A poem of 5 lines, using a primarily anapestic rhythm (that is, a rhythm that goes ta-ta-TUM ta ta TUM ta ta TUM:

so there WAS | an old MAN | from perU
who once LIVED | in a SMELL | y old SHOE
he could STAND | no more SMELL | ing,
and paid ME | just one SHILL | ing,
to FU | mi gate HIS | old brown SHOE.

As you can see with this poem (made up off the top of my head :-)), usually lines 1, 2, and 5 have three anapests, and lines 3 and 4 are shorter, with 2 anapests. (The unstressed syllable at the end of lines 3 and 4, incidentally, is called an “imperfect foot”–a throwaway, unstressed syllable included at the end of a line. Remember this from your freshman lit class?)

Reading around about the history of the limerick, I was not surprised to find out that this is a poem that originated in the “lower rungs” of society. It’s pretty easy to write one, as my example above shows. Usually obscene, often improvised as a drinking song–what’s interesting to me is, #1, that it is a poem of fairly recent origin (early 19th century, at least in print), and #2,  that it was evacuated of most of its subversive content in the 20th century and is now considered innocuous children’s verse, thanks to the likes of people like British poet Edward Lear, who wrote books full of these things.

So I’d like to bring the limerick back to life. Let’s make ‘er obscene, the dirtier and drinkier the better.

I’ll work on mine the next few days & will post what I come up with. In the meantime, I’d love to see yours! And if you have a more challenging form for me to try in Week 2, suggest away >:-)

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5 thoughts on “Weekly Poem Project #1: a limerick

  1. I think, at some point, a sonnet needs to happen. In 9th grade English we had to write a sonnet following all of the rules (sometimes, teachers will let something slide, usually the iambic pentameter, but ours did not). I can remember having a horrible time trying to write in iambic pentameter, so I stayed with my teacher while she pounded on desks. That is one of my most vivid English class memories.

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  2. Okay, here’s one. Love your project!

    A blooper occurs, I daresay.
    When deportment goes quickly outré.
    An example I’ll offer
    To zealot or scoffer:
    Shampooing inside a bidet.

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