The Limerick

A limerick is a humorous poem consisting of five lines. The first, second, and fifth lines must have seven to ten syllables while rhyming and having the same verbal rhythm. The third and fourth lines only have to have five to seven syllables, and have to rhyme with each other and have the same rhythm.

As someone who enjoys the irreverent, limericks have always held a special place in my heart. The art form was made to violate taboo and to upend the classical “profoundness” of other forms of poetry. Here’s an example:

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.

I also love meter and rhyme and find that it adds another layer of skill to create a full idea within the constructs given. Since we are coming up on St. Patrick’s Day, it only makes sense to explore this underused poetic style.

The basic premise of a limerick is to introduce a person and/or place with that word many times being the last word of the first line, setting up the rhyming style. There’s a sort of unofficial attempt to make this word as odd as possible, setting up tension in the listener to see how they are going to make it work. Think Nantucket, Kalamazoo, pelican, Natchez.

The third and fourth line introduce “the conflict” or “the story” with the last line giving us a twist or punch. Here’s another one that definitely goes into the obscene.

There once was a man from Kalamazoo
Who fell asleep while in his canoe.
While dreaming of Venus
He played with his penis
And woke up all covered in goo.

The fun is in the blushing and tittering! So identifying your taboos and then shattering them, is the point to being an effective limerick writer. Stop by Gia Gelato at 281 Newark Ave in Jersey City, at 11am on Saturday, March 11, 2017 to learn more, and for a chance to try your hand at writing a limerick or two.


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