How to Write Limericks
by Nancy Ness
|So you want to know how to write Lim'ricks,
And you think I can show you some quick tricks?
You can ask all you might
But your own you can write
For there really are no secret gimmicks!!
What's so special about limericks, anyway? They're
just five little lines of corny, quirky, comical poetry, aren't they? Just why is it that
everyone loves them so much? It seems to me that the common denominator is Everyone, and I
do mean everyone, would rather laugh than scowl - and limericks make us laugh. They're a
momentary escape into the wonderful world of humor.
This whimsical form of light verse was widely popularized by Edward Lear
in the mid 1800's with the publication of his "Book of Nonsense." Its origins,
however, are believed to have been from a century earlier when the Irish Brigade sang a
chorus enroute from France to Ireland. The English devised their first official limerick
in 1744 - a well-known ditty that is probably familiar to you. Who doesn't smile just a
bit when they recall these words?
|Hickory, Dickory, Dock
The mouse ran up the clock
The clock struck one
And down he ran
Hickory, Dickory, Dock!
How do we write limericks? A limerick is funny, it's
just five lines, and it's written in verse that has a particular pattern of rhyme and
Let's start with the rhyme scheme. Limericks are written with a specific rhyme scheme of
"a-a-b-b-a." In other words, the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme with each
other, as do the third and fourth.
It's the meter that gives this form of poetry its unique character. Limericks are written
in "anapestic meter." That means each line is comprised of anapestic feet with a
"short-short-long" syllable stress pattern.
(Ignore this part if you're not into the technical stuff.) Although the first syllable of
verse is frequently altered for effect, the format characteristically follows a pattern
Line 1 - anapestic trimeter - three anapestics
Line 2 - anapestic trimeter - three anapestics
Line 3 - anapestic dimeter - two anapestics
Line 4 - anapestic dimeter - two anapestics
Line 5 - anapestic trimeter - three anapestics
OK everyone, c'mon back now. If that didn't make any sense to you at all, the format is
more simply described by following this rhythm -
That's all there is to it, folks. Try it - you'll like it. Oh, and above all, have some
fun writing - for smilin' out loud!
|So, just pick up your pencil and think
Something funny and keep it in sync
A great poet or not
If those lyrics you're got
Your readers will be tickled pink!
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