The Haphazardly Poetical – There was an old poet called Lear…

Poetry
Photo by Trust “Tru” Katsande on Unsplash

A little while ago, at the end of ‘An Apology from the Man in the Red Plastic Nose’ I included a limerick that I had just written, simply because it included the word ‘nose’…

A man with a plasticine nose
Tried to model it into a rose.
He practised until he
Produced a red lily,
Which is almost the same I suppose.

It seemed harmless enough, and I enjoyed writing it, so I decided to write some more. You know what it’s like – you have to set yourself challenges now and then. Worryingly they came quite easily for a while and then, quite suddenly, they didn’t come at all, and that is when I become desperate to write another one. The first four lines are easy, but the punch line… oh dear, after a while it becomes increasingly difficult to get. I have so many four-fifths (80% if we’re still in the EU) finished limericks that I keep revisiting: constantly adding a finale that either doesn’t quite rhyme or doesn’t quite scan. They torment me. I have even thought of simply re-running the first line at the end (like Mr Lear himself) just so I could file them in the bin under ‘Utter Tripe’ and not be faced with their incompleteness every time I sit at my desk. Limericks are infuriatingly elusive: they pop into your head complete, but lose a line somewhere along the way, before you have the opportunity to commit them to paper. One of my greatest heroes, Sir Michael of the Palin once wrote a book that contained 100 limericks, and I seem to remember him saying something along the lines of 90 of them just popped into his head whilst the other 10 almost killed him. Anyway, as some kind of salutary lesson, I picked out one-a-day from a week’s worth of limerick writing (I’ll be honest here, three came from the same day and my best days for rhyme were whilst I was blog writing – go figure) – the salutary lesson is that these are the best ones, the ones that made the most sense. The others? Oh dear… It just goes to show what you can fail to achieve if you really have no better way of spending your time…

There was a young fella from Looe
Who would never remove his left shoe.
When asked why it was,
He’d reply ‘It’s because
It’s fixed to my instep with glue.’

Now, limericks do, obviously, follow a fairly strict format, but I did try to vary my approach a bit…

A brainy young boy, known as Peter
Was a very good crossword completer
When asked ‘Is it true
That you don’t read a clue?’
He replied ‘Well I find it much neater.’

…but before too long my brain became an atlas filled with all the places from which an elderly man or woman could possible come…

An elderly man from Cresselly
Was addicted to soaps on the telly
He wallowed in doom
And monotonous gloom
Whilst his brain slowly rendered to jelly

At one point the rhymes became quite inward looking…

There was a young man known as Stan
Whose limericks never would scan
On a page full of scribbles
He played with syllables
Before ending back where he began

I even tried to make them contemporary and relevant: not easy with a limerick…

A woman from Leamington Spa
Took the engine block out of her car
And put there instead
A vegetable bed
Which was very much cleaner by far

Sometimes it was lines three and four that gave me the trouble…

The brains of a woman called Page
Ensured that she stood centre stage
But still her employer
Would only deploy her
At less than a working man’s wage

I became very aware of pronunciation: my whole day’s endeavours could hinge on whether a word like camera is pronounced as a two syllable or a three syllable word. As a man who is both consumed and beguiled by words, I was concerned that I was becoming obsessed by them. For instance, I just couldn’t finish

There was an old woman from Slough
Whose skin was incredibly rough…
(I have a horrible feeling that you have to be from the UK to get that joke… and possibly this one too)

An elderly woman called Madge
Built a rocket from what she could cadge
From sticky-back plastic
And knicker elastic
‘Til it earned her a Blue Peter badge.

But the simply silly were never far around the corner…

There was a young vampire from Ealing
Who just hung around from the ceiling
He wouldn’t drink blood
Though he knew that he should,
But he just didn’t find it appealing.

And that was it, I wrote that this morning and decided that I’d had enough. Limericks began to dominate my every thought. But then, this last five liner came into my head and, just as I prepared to post it, it turned out to be a ten liner…

An old man who counted out time
And spoke of his life in its prime
Had discovered a curse
In this short form of verse
When he just couldn’t quite make it rhyme

When he stared at the page it occurred
That it really was simply absurd
To be so at sea
Etymologically
That he just couldn’t find the right word.

So there you are. Limericks; not really poetry, except in the broadest of senses, but they are fun and strangely demanding to write.

And just so you don’t feel left out, this is one of the ones that I just couldn’t finish. I’m sure you will be able to do it…

There was a young fellow called Jim
Who had extra of ev-e-ry limb
If he wanted a place
In the three-legged race

 

The Haphazardly Poetical – 100% Is All