Limericks

 

 

There was an old man with a hat.
The hat had a hole for a bat.
When the bat flew away,
The man cried, “Please stay!”
How I hate to wear a cold hat.”

 

There was an old man with a slug.
He wanted to give it a hug.
The slug cried, “Oh no!
You must let me go!
Your hugs are too snug for a slug.”

 

There once was a boy with a frog.
What he’d wanted to get was a dog.
The boy ordered, “Sit!”
The frog had a fit,
And burped, “First, you must get me a log!”

 

(c) 2013 Elizabeth Steinglass, all rights reserved

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Oh my poor family, for I have dedicated this week to the limerick. Once I started, I found it nearly impossible to stop. I can still hear the anapests galloping in my head. As you probably know, a limerick is a five-line poem in which the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme and use the following pattern of accents—da DUM, da da DUM, da da DUM. Lines three and four also rhyme and follow this pattern of accents—da DUM, da da DUM. (Alternatively, lines three and four can be combined into one line with an internal rhyme, which is how Edward Lear wrote them.) In some limericks the last word of the last line repeats the last word in either line one or line two. Though traditional, this repetition seems to offend some of today’s readers.

 

My favorite limerick is from Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense:

There was an Old Man with a beard
Who said, “It is just as I feared!–
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!”

 

To me this poem seems a perfect example of the kind of innocent silliness kids (and grown-ups) enjoy. But as a poet, what I really admire is Lear’s simple language and what appears to be an effortless use of the form. After a week of writing limericks, I’m guessing that what seems effortless is actually the result of great effort, great talent, and good fortune. Compared to the example above, many limericks act like contortionists, twisting themselves uncomfortably to fit the form. It’s the rare limerick that glides across the tightrope with grace and ease.

For more information about the limerick, visit Poets.org.

For more Poetry Friday, visit Julie Larios at The Drift Record.

(c) 2013, Elizabeth Steinglass

Two Silly Poems

petits fours by Erica

 

The Sparrow at the Store

I saw a sparrow at the grocery store.
I offered to show him the way to the door.
“Thanks,” he said, “but there’s one thing more.
Do you know where they keep the petits four?”

 

 


 

The Secret of the Cat

What’s the secret
Of the domesticated cat?
She understands you perfectly,
But doesn’t care to chat.


Goodness, I’ve been grumpy. I hope it’s just the weather and the gray skies. I thought I’d use this week’s post to try to improve my mood. I got out my Ogden Nash poems. They always do the trick. Then I decided to write some of my own silly animal poems. I’ve posted yesterday’s work above. I hope it brings a little warmth to your winter.

 

For more Poetry Friday, go to Teaching Authors.

(c) 2013 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved

Poetry Friday: Houdini

All day long
He hides
From view,
In the darkness
Under beds,
In the corners
Children dread.
Then at night
He skims
The walls,
The shadow
Of a cat
Long gone.


Three of the best things about visiting Grandma are her two large dogs and her cat, Houdini. Unfortunately, Houdini doesn’t seem to enjoy our visits. He hides day and night, so seeing him is a special treat.

For more Poetry Friday visit Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme.

(c) 2013 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved

The Snail’s Lament

 

You might think
This mobile home’s
A perfect fit
For those who roam,
But this big wheel
Tends to sag,
So, actually,
It’s more of a drag.

I confess I have this fantasy that somewhere there’s a writer who is so amazing, he or she doesn’t have to revise. But I know in my heart of hearts that this perfect first-draft writer doesn’t exist. Everyone revises. Revising is part of writing. It’s necessary, and sometimes it’s even fun. It can be a process involving play, exploration, and discovery. I like looking back at what I’ve written to see what I’ve said, what seems to want to be said, and then revising to say it more clearly or artfully. As someone who enjoys revising and as an observer of kid-writers who tie themselves in knots trying to write perfectly the first time, I’ve been wanting to share some of my revisions. So below is the first part of what happened between finding the snail and this week’s poem. This is straight from my notebook:

Maybe you think
It’s so convenient
To have a mobile home?
Actually, if it has no wheels
It’s actually kind of a drag.
Drag sag wag brag tag flag bag gag hag jag lag nag rag stag
Actually it’s hard to wag
And since it’s heavy
It’s more of a drag.
Actually
it tends to sag
and it’s hard to wag
So having a shell
Is honestly,
More of a drag.
And it has no wheels
So it’s more of a drag.
You might think
I have cause to brag

I think you can see that my first attempt wasn’t so much about writing a good poem as it was about getting an idea going—discovering a seed that I could tend and grow. I also think you can see that I found that seed there right in the first five lines—the snail’s point of view, the misconception, and the word drag. Where did these ideas come from? The snail. This poem started when I leaned over to get a good look at the little guy, and I was struck by how hard he seemed to be working to drag that shell around.
I think you can also see that I pretty quickly settled on the word drag because of its double meaning. Once I decided to go with drag, I had the voice of the poem, and I had the beginning of the rhyme scheme. I then started exploring different options that rhyme with drag, like wag and brag. You can see that after a bit of experimenting, I went back to some words I had early on—mobile home, wheel, and sag. Once I had these pieces, the rest came together without too much trouble.
When I look back at my process, I think maybe I don’t need that fantasy of the perfect first-draft writer. I think maybe that perfect first-draft writer is missing all the fun.
For more Poetry Friday see Robyn Hood Black at Read, Write, Howl.

(c) 2012 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved

The Hungry Giraffe

photo by Hans Stieglitz

Dining up high
On leaves in the sky
With the clouds
Near your eyes and the
Swifts sweeping by
Is fine, until you find your mouth is
Dry and the water
Enveloping your toes.

I’m still reading The National Geographic Book of Animal Poems. Every day. Just like a kid. This week I stopped short when I got to the two acrostic poems by Avis Harley. They use such wonderful and fun language. One thing I appreciate about them is that the vertical words are not the animal’s name; they’re about the animal, another part of the poem, another expression of the animal’s essence. The poem above is my response to Harley’s poem about giraffes which is titled “Above All” and is from her book African Acrostics.

For more Poetry Friday see Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at The Poem Farm.

(c) 2012 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved