Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Limerick

The limerick is a fixed form of poetry. It is usually humorous, often nonsensical. The lines are short, swift, and catchy. The limerick is made up of five lines, all basically anapestic in meter (short, short, long). The first, second, and fifth lines usually have three beats (or feet), while the third and fourth line have two. The first, second, and fifth lines have the same end rhyme, while the third and fourth lines rhyme, thus forming a couplet. There are variations to this pattern.

Here is an example from my own pen:

A Limerick for October

I can hardly wait for October
For then the German beer flows over
And I sit and I sip
Holding mug to my lips
At the inn called Aye Bee Sober.

The form is simple; thus, it is easy to make up limericks on the spot, and it often turns into a reciting sport, some made up and some remembered. They are fun to play with, but they lend themselves to bawdiness. For anyone who wishes to get the full feel of the limerick (including much bawdiness), I suggest The Lure of the Limerick by William S. Baring-Gould, Clarkson N. Potter, Inc./Publisher, New York. Eighth Printing, February, 1970.

I close with an anonymous limerick I found in Perrine’s Sound and Sense, p. 234, Tenth Edition.

An Epicure Dining at Crewe

An epicure dining at Crewe
Found a rather large mouse in his stew,
Said the waiter, “Don’t shout
And wave it about
Or the rest will be wanting one too."

Have you tried your hand at writing limericks? If so—or if you want to try it now—why not share with the rest of us in the comments?

L. Luis Lopez, Ph.D., has published three books of poetry, Musings of a Barrio Sack Boy, (winner of a Writer's Digest award in poetry) A Painting of Sand, and Each Month I Sing (winner of the American Book Award 2008). He is a professor at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colorado. You may contact him at llopez9203@aol.com. http://www.lluislopez.com/


  1. Shouldn't a Limerick always mention a geographical location in the first line?

  2. A really fun post, Dr. Lopez. Limericks are short, catchy, and not nearly as easy to write as they appear. They deserve much praise.

    Straight From Hel

  3. A limerick is great fun indeed
    Entertaining to write and to read.
    There's fun in each verse
    Though the writing is terse.
    You can pen one with both joy and speed.

  4. Nice bailout, Hel. Where's yours? I'm still working on mine.


  5. There once was a gal from The Middle,
    Who couldn't write poems worth a diddle,
    She gazed into space
    with a frown on her face,
    Then decided to just go and piddle.



  6. Dang, all I can think of are dirty limericks...

  7. What fun. Wish my brain was not clouded with pain meds or I would join in.

  8. I look at this "meal" on my plate
    A mere fraction of what I once ate
    Half a fish to the lips
    Has me yearning for chips
    With a hunger I may never sate.

  9. Years ago I wrote a little limerick simply called Rain
    The rain is coming down outside,
    But I ain't gonna run and hide.
    I'm standing in the pouring rain,
    But if I really had a brain
    I'd turn and go inside.

  10. There once was a fairy named Farty.
    He was robust, was hale and was hearty.
    He loved to go toot.
    I don’t mean with a flute.
    He was always the life of the party.

    I refer to The Fart Fairy, of course.:)

    Bobbie hinman

  11. There once was a gal named Sal who loved a guy named Al, but all he wanted was to be a pal.

    Okay, that's the best I could do on the spot. I'm not a poet. (g)

    Morgan Mandel

  12. We'll let the Professor say which one he likes best!

  13. Morgan, that is pretty good even though you are not a poet.

  14. Y'all have talent and imagination
    Looks like limerick writing is much fun
    Wish I had a head for it
    But what I wrote ain't worth spit
    I couln't even find a pun

  15. I hope the good prof answers the first question - I do want to know now!


  16. To Cold as Heaven: A limerick does not always have to mention a geographical location in the first line. Here are some examples of those that don't, which were taken from the book on limericks I mention in the article.

    "A delighted incredulous bride"

    "There once was a fellow named Bob"

    "A wartime young lady of fashion”

    To Janet Muirhead: You have caught the rhytym.

    To Dani: Your limerick has a nice surprise ending—I am sure you worked hours on that ending! Piddle? Good job.

    To Christina: Let's see the bawdy ones, if that is allowed on the blog.

    To Kathryn Craft: I identify with your limerick. I'm on Weightwatchers. Very nicely done.

    To Maryann: Take advantage of the cloudiness. You never know what might develop on paper.

    To Dennis: If you did this years ago, just think of what might be lurking in your pen today.

    To Morgan: The lines ending "Sal" and "Al" and "pal" will make up lines 1,2, and 5. Now find something for the couplet in the middle.

    To Charlotte: This limerick flowed well. I really like it as it meets frustration head on. Good work.

    And Dani: Each one is the best.

  17. Dortmunder Gold

    It's not made in Germany, I know,

    But give this good lager a go,

    You'll be filled with wonder,

    When tasting Dortmunder,

    Thanks be to Great Lakes Brewing Co.

  18. I sing the praises of beer,
    To everyone able to hear,
    Hops, barley and yeast,
    Good water, not least,
    To all who imbibe - good cheer!


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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