April is the cruelest month, wrote the great poet T.S. Eliot, which may explain why somewhere down the line it also was named National Poetry Month.
So many people go through life thinking of poetry as boring or confusing. Something for English majors and librarians, but not for themselves. Chances are, they’ve had a bad experience involving poems they just couldn’t relate to, and it put them off poetry for good. That’s a cruel irony, because there’s poetry out there for everyone’s tastes — amusing, consoling, inspiring, and just plain enjoyable. It’s only a matter of finding it.
When someone tells me they prefer Mrs. Butterworth’s to real maple syrup, I tell them it’s because they’ve only had bad maple syrup. Good maple syrup is like fresh air — it’s sweet and clear and impossible not to like.
Poets boil down language the same way a sugarmaker boils sap into syrup or a grandma cooks the juice from a Sunday pot roast into her famous gravy. We savor those things as foods that enhance other foods.
Poetry enriches our lives in the same way. In all the words we consume every day — reading the newspaper, browsing online, listening to the radio — poetry is the gravy, the maple syrup, the horseradish, the jam, that adds flavor and color to our daily diets.
Last summer, I put out a call for Gazette readers to submit their original haiku poetry — and they responded heroically with dozens of great poems. Today, in celebration of Poetry Month, I’m putting out a call for original limericks.
They’re kind of like the brother-in-law of the poetry family. Most limericks are humorous and fun, even nonsensical, and some are cheerfully rude. The word “bawdy” appears frequently in front of the word “limerick,” but we’re not going for that here.
This is a family newspaper, after all.
The limerick goes back as far as the Middle Ages, but it was 19th-century British writer Edward Lear who helped popularize the form we know today. Writers from Mark Twain to H.G. Wells wrote limericks.
Here’s one from Rudyard Kipling:
There was a small boy of Quebec
Who was buried in snow to his neck.
When they said, “Are you friz?”
He replied, “Yes, I is –
But we don’t call this cold in Quebec.”
This is by an anonymous author:
There once was a young lady named Bright,
Whose speed was much faster than light.
She set out one day
In a relative way
And returned on the previous night.
The style various, but most limericks have five lines. The first, second and fifth lines rhyme and contain eight or nine syllables each. The third and fourth lines rhyme and contain five or six syllables each.
Think of it as a word game. Many, like Kipling’s limerick, take liberties with spelling and grammar, which adds to the fun. Here are a few I wrote to help prime your creative pump.
This one’s about my workspace:
There once was a writer named Gladden,
Who was neither a good nor bad’n.
Alas, life is hard
For any poor bard
Sitting in a chair with no paddin’.
About the county you and I call home:
There once was a place called Mediner.
Its woods and fields, none were finer.
Then came the strip malls
And suburban sprawls.
Why, it gives a feller anginer.
On one of my favorite Tribe baseball players:
Those Indians fans are not shouting, “Boo!”
In reality, they’re cheering, “Choo!”
He’s good with the mitt,
And the guy can hit.
It’s Shin-Soo, our favorite Wahoo.
And here’s a donation from my fourth-grade daughter, who wrote this limerick as part of a class assignment:
There once was a raccoon named Fred,
Who had to stay in bed.
It was quite a task
When the doctor said, “Take off your mask.”
Now once again poor Fred is in bed.
Here are the rules:
Keep your limericks clean and more or less in keeping with the rhyme and syllable pattern noted above. Try to make your limericks as local as you can. Write about life in Medina County — about springtime or about the places and things that make this our home.
There will be some kind of fabulous, yet at this point unknown, prize for the best limerick by a young person and the best by a person older than 18. So be sure to include your age and contact information with your entry.
We’ll hold the doors to the Medina County Limerick Contest open this week and next. I’ll print the best ones in my column on April 27 at the conclusion of National Poetry Month.
E-mail your limericks to firstname.lastname@example.org or support your local letter carrier by mailing them to The Gazette, 885 W. Liberty St., Medina 44256.
OK, it’s your turn. Now get goin’.
Was time for tell, now time for showin’.
Write your limerick —
There’s really no trick.
The neon “Open” sign’s a-glowin’.
Contact John Gladden at email@example.com.