Friday, August 19, 2016

Lucy Welcomes Her Cousin Tom for Limerick Mania!

Cousin Tom, Sister Sue, Cousin Joan
LUCY BURDETTE: As I mentioned on Monday, my cousin Tom is a limerick genius. (In photo to left, they must be laughing at one of his wondrous poems!) He also works as a professor at a school in NC--I won't say more as he thought they might not appreciate this kind of publicity. Lucky for all of us, he's agreed to help us get started on JRW limerick mania. Thanks for agreeing to visit, Tom! Is there a certain structure that the limerick should follow?

TOM ISLEIB: Generally, a limerick has five lines with syllable content and rhyme scheme 8a, 8a, 5b, 5b, 8a.  If you read a lot of limericks, you will find that there is some variation in the numbers of syllables in lines, usually within one or two of the eight or five.  As for the rhyming, I have seen some real stretches, and I think it unsporting when the fifth line simply repeats the last word of the first or second line, e.g., one attributed to 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." 

I imagine that Kipling would punch me out for calling that "unsporting." 

LUCY: When you, Tom, are beginning a poem, how do you start? With the important rhyming words for lines 1, 2, and 5, or somewhere else?

TOM:  I usually start with a word that is critical to the particular limerick, say, a name, and try to think of words that rhyme with it that could end lines 1, 2, and 5.  Some names are hard to rhyme, for example, "Martha" (my newly married cousin) although the shortened version "Mart" or "Marty" is easier.  If a critical word is difficult to rhyme, you can bury it within a line that ends with a more easily rhymed word, e.g.,

"When Martha was going to be wed
She asked, "Will it go to my head? 
I caught me a mister
Then gloated to Sister. 
Should I have just shacked up instead?"

LUCY: Any other tips for limerick novices?

TOM:  A memorable limerick is off-color, some of them downright nasty dirty.  We all know the famous dirty one about the man from Nantucket, although I have heard a perfectly clean version of that one.  "There once was a man from Nantucket who kept all his cash in a bucket..."  If not off-color, a limerick usually has a pun, a joke, or some other cleverness built into it that makes the reader groan.  Consider Mark Twain's famous one: 

"A man hired by John Smith and Co.
Loudly declared that he’d tho.
Men that he saw
Dumping dirt near his door
The drivers, therefore, didn’t do."

See how he did that?  Jot down your first try, then let it fester in your subconscious mind for a day or two.  You may come up with a better variation or rhyme if you do.

LUCY: And ps, in case you think my cuz can’t take a harder name like “Martha” and do something with it, here’s the limerick he dashed off just before the wedding:

“There once was a woman named Martha
Who was hunting a guy like Siddhartha,
And then she met Rich,
A nice sonofabitch,
Now they'll marry and snooze by the heartha.”

And in case (like me) you didn’t get Mark Twain’s cleverness, here’s the key:
Co. = Company
Tho. = Thump any
Do. = Dump any

Now for the contest…come up with your best shot at a limerick and post in the comments. There’ll be prizes, and celebration for your daring, I guarantee you!


  1. Wow . . . I am in awe of Tom. Limericks are NOT easy!
    After much struggle, the best I can say is that the syllables and rhymes follow the pattern.

    I once knew a girl from Dupree:
    With Alice I walked by the sea.
    She gave me a look,
    then called me a schnook,
    and flounced off to sip some marsh tea.

  2. Joan, that's a very good start for so early in the morning! You've set the bar for the day...

  3. So fun! Thanks, Tom. I have written a few celebratory limericks, a page of them each, once for a friend's eightieth birthday, and once for a couple's fiftieth wedding anniversary. Goofy, but they loved them.

    Here's my bio:

    There once was a girl from C A
    Who landed a job in M A
    She now writes crime books,
    Gets lots of strange looks
    When talking about whom to slay

  4. Remember cousins Tom and Lucy?
    Both were incredibly choosy.
    But they always agreed,
    On a Japanese cuisine feed,
    And got woozy on sake and sushi.

    OK people, this is too much for my head this early in the morning. Now what do I win?

    Here's my favorite, expurgated of course, and not original by any means:

    There once was a Bishop of Buckingham,
    Who stood on the bridge at Uppingham?
    Watching the stunts of the c*nts in the punts,
    And the tricks of the pr*cks who were f*ckingham.

    Am I kicked out?

  5. This is so great! I will think. But I know Tom will be familiar with my favorite Limerick, which I can't remember the beginning of, only the end, which is :

    The Mr. kr. sr.

    Does he know it? Or can any of you guess? I will find the beginning!

  6. The lassies from Jungle Red always scribbling
    That they were talented and famous, no quibbling
    Reds so hard they labored on their blog
    To the sisters this project no slog
    Set their readers each day a giggling!

  7. Yay, John!
    Hank, I know you're going to hit this out of the park.

    This is so out of my ken, but here's one:

    Though poetically challenged, a writer
    Wrote limericks that only got triter
    So she tried writing dirty
    But only got flirty
    And caused her blog partners to smite her.

  8. And another

    Lucy made me, the brave Jungle Red,
    Pointed to bad limericks and said,
    And that cousin Tom
    Who wrote with aplomb
    They made me try rhyming instead.

  9. I'm thinking I'm thinking! Pass the baton to Julia, though, who you know will kill this…

  10. There is no way. Just--no way. Not at 8:18am with only one cup of tea.

    But thanks for the early morning laugh, Reds and Tom. I sorely need it today.

  11. Hallie, you've got what it takes! Here's one

    There once was a girl with Meniere's
    Only roaring was heard in her ears
    So she stopped eating salt
    Her food bland to a fault
    Now she'll be poisoning people for years

    Hmmm, last line needs an editor...

    Ann you are definitely in the winner's far!

  12. Lucy, feels like "assaulting" belongs in there somewhere.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. In the shower--all lathered and soapy
    There's a rhyme I can think of, I hopey!
    But each time brain mine
    Mines a line that's divine
    I decide it's decidedly dopey.

  15. This is fun! I took today off from work. When I'm done with breakfast I'll go off and think for a little while, and see if I can come up with something! (For now, I need more caffeine:-)

    Deb Romano

  16. yay Hank! Deb R, drink up and do come back! Did you take the day off just to write limericks???

  17. Hank, I found your mystery limerick:

    She frowned and called him Mr.
    Because, in sport, he kr.
    And so, in spite,
    That very night,
    This Mr. kr. sr.

    The author seems to be that slippery old Anonymous.

  18. And I found this wonderful one by Zach Weiner, a top-down and bottom-up limerick:

    This limerick goes in reverse
    Unless I’m remiss
    The neat thing is this:
    If you start from the bottom-most verse
    This limerick’s not any worse.

    I have no talent whatsoever for poems of any kind, but enjoy reading these. Thanks!

  19. Well, I'm clearly not going to get much work done today. But I'll start with the one I wrote about a million years ago, after I first heard the Kipling-attributed limerick about about the boy from Quebec.

    There once was a man named Levesque
    Who ambitiously built a xebec.
    He sailed the St. Lawrence
    With his girlfriend Florence
    From Montreal down to Quebec.

    (and for anyone who loves D E Stevenson's books, a bunch of her readers decided to encapsulate her plots in limericks.

    Recommended fun to try with any author.

  20. Love the reverse Limerick, Karen! That's fine! And yes, thank you that's exactly the Limerick I was thinking… I meant fun not fine, but this email will not let me change it :-)

  21. Deb fell asleep on her deck.
    Some spiders alit on her neck.
    She woke up with a start
    and a fast beating heart.
    My goodness! That gal was a wreck!

    Deb Romano...I may try again later!

  22. There once was a writer named Julia
    whose Mom said, 'Come over, I'll fuel ya.

    Don't give me that look--
    Just finish yer book!'

    Don't bother her or we'll duel ya!

    from a fan..... ;-)

  23. Susan D, that's such fun! It would be very flattering to have fans putting your plots into limericks. I had to look up what a xebec was--very clever.

    Deb, excellent for your first try!

    FChurch, LOL, so perfect!

  24. As I sit here writing in my pajamas
    I find myself thinking of llamas
    I know that they spit
    But at least they don't hit
    And they bring joy for many mananas

    spell check really wanted to change mananas into bananas, but if you said the limerick with an accent it could be:

    As I sit here writing in my pajamas (think jam)
    I find myself thinking of llamas (lamb-as)
    I know that they spit
    And on command will not sit
    But they love to eat my bananas

    Didn't get any better -- oh well

    1. Celia, what if the third line in that first Limerick was "but if it's me that they hit,
      They won't be around for MaƱanas"

    2. I meant fourth line, sorry! And just a silly LOL

  25. I'm breaking the rules...all in fun!
    Swamp poems from SW FL

    ELVIS the Lizard

    Elvis the lizard was singin’ one day,
    “I’m jus a lizard from El Paso way…”
    Admirin’ his looks and lookin’ pretty sleek
    Grinnin’ in the mirror
    Elvis combed back his hair in a style quite unique.

    Now Elvis, it’s said, is one of a kind­­—
    Got caught in a swamp of industrial slime.
    Knowin’ he’s special, growin’ hair like he’s done
    Made Elvis an outcast
    Shunned from day one.

    Elvis the lizard was singin’ one day,
    “I’m jus’ countin’ my pesos coming my way…”
    Stackin’ coins in a row, he smiles and said
    “No dumb lizard here—gotta brain in my head…”

    Now Elvis, it’s said, is one a kind,
    Knew how to make money with his hair so fine.
    Went back to that swamp and scooped up some swill.
    Smiled as he packaged it and put it up for sale.
    As the Hair Growin’ Wonder got quite a name
    Soon many a lizard was sportin’ a mane.

    Now Elvis, it’s said is one of kind,
    Singin’ “…got it made in the shade, yessiree…”
    Pourin’ the tonic so carefully
    He made a mistake and spilled swill on his feet.
    Hair started sproutin’ and growin’ so long.

    He tripped and fell into the vat that made
    Elvis a legend, a wonder--and all that.
    Now Elvis was heard singin’ a tune one day,
    “I’m the Great Roadside Attraction from El Paso way…”

  26. "Orange" and "silver" famously do not have perfect rhyming partners, but you can resort to "eye" or "sight" rhyming where the words have the same ending letters even tough they are pronounced differently. Or some other imperfect rhyming scheme like assonance (similar vowel sounds) or consonance (similar ending consonants).

    I do not like duck a l'orange.
    I find French cuisine to be strange.
    Just give me a steak
    Or a fish from the lake
    Or boiled beans if I'm home on the range.

    It would be quite an achievement to use three different rhyme types for lines 1, 2, and 5, and a different one for the couplet in lines 3 and 4.

    1. Yay Tom! Don't we have a clever and brave group of writers here? Thanks so much for all your tips

  27. A limerick's good if it's raw
    Dirty words will not stick in your craw.
    Don't sign no petition:
    Join the competition.
    Don't be namby-pamby, grandmaw!

  28. When you're mentally ill, you speak rhyme.
    I hear this a lot of the time.
    But it's good to write verses
    Not spout off in curses
    Or kick the soup out of some mime.

  29. I like to wear clothes that are red.
    Red socks or red cap for my head.
    I know an odd fellow
    Who prefers to wear yellow
    But Fred should opt for red instead.

  30. Please don't call me a state-funded jerk
    Who can only dodge hard jobs and shirk.
    I could write limericks
    'Til I get very sick
    But I really must get back to work.

  31. For this challenge I'm taking the bait
    But in AZ it was 108
    I've tried and I've tried
    But my brain is still fried
    So I guess y'all just have to wait!

  32. By favorite old limerick (that can be repeated here) is

    There once was a girl from Madras
    Who had a most peculiar ass
    It was not round and pink
    As well you may think
    But was gray, with long ears, and ate grass

  33. Plus you read "strange" as "strawnge". Which is funny, because it's strange! And kind of French…

  34. John came up with one:
    There once was a writer named Rhys
    Who had been asked to write a piece
    By the authors at Jungle
    She said "I can't bungle
    My first attempt at a limerick!

  35. A geneticist from Carolina
    Wrote rhymes, I've never read finer.
    Hence bald-headed Steve
    From his stupor did heave
    And offered his own five liner.

  36. Those Jungle Red Writers are smart
    So their limericks ought to be tart.
    They're even more purty
    When they're downright dirty:
    Yes, filthy jokes can be an art.

  37. Brer Steve is a mighty fine nurse
    He'll administer meds with a curse.
    But he sent in a poem
    That needed a home
    That wasn't got to in a hearse.

  38. Our grandmother was half Irish, half German Swiss; her maternal grandparents were immigrants from Ireland. Our grandfather was a pure German. His father came to America as a child in 1852. They settled in New Jersey where the state conducted a census in 1895. The form had columns to be checked off by the census taker: Foreign born? Is this person German? Is this person Irish? We are proudly both. Wanna fight about it?

    Almost every day I wear some green.
    Irish ancestry isn't obscene.
    In America Germans
    May be treated like vermin,
    But the Irish are treated real keen.

    1. That was Tom again, so my ancestry would be the same as his on that side! He is our Genealogy Guy as well as being the limerick master

  39. My great-great grandmother's brother, Orange Frost Small, was a veteran of the famous 20th Maine regiment that held the end of the Union line in the face of repeated Confederate charges at Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War. But Uncle Orange wasn't there: he went insane after the horrors of Fredericksburg.

    Had an Unk in the 20th Maine.
    Wonder if he knew Buster Kilrain?
    He went crazy in V A,
    Didn't make it to P A,
    Where the regiment had its big day.

  40. We are still looking for a big winner
    Why shouldn't it be a beginner?
    So lay out some nibbles
    And jot down some scribbles
    Take your writing bring out for a spinner!

  41. Snow is my nightmare come true,
    When it falls I don't know what to do.
    Stay in and read books
    about killers and crooks,
    Or go out and shovel til blue.

    Deb Romano

  42. Oh, you are all making me feel incredibly incompetent in the area of limericks! I am thoroughly enjoying reading them all, though. =)

  43. When a writer, you are, who can't rhyme
    No matter how long given time,
    You're likely to feel
    Just like a schlameil,
    So just go back to sipping your wine.

  44. Yes, yes - I know "wine" and "time" don't exactly rhyme, but isn't there an escape clause for that? LOL

  45. What fun this is for the brain
    Wish mine could be more profane
    Love reading the smut
    Always laugh from the gut
    But this was enough of a strain.


  46. There once was a woman named Coralee
    Refined she lived quite morally
    Until one day
    She decided to play
    And now does it quite orally

    Okay it's naughty; not much rhymes with Coralee

  47. for Butterman, perhaps?

    There once was a brainy mind fixer
    Who cured with wise words not elixir
    Her patients talked it all out
    Her patience ne'er faced a drought
    But I hear she traded that job for... a mixer!


  48. I just got back from a hike and saw this. Such fun. Here's my attempt:

    An author who stuck to his writing
    In hopes of eventual knighting
    Said, "Screw it, I'm through,
    My royalties are few.
    I'll see if the big fish are biting!"

  49. Late here again today, but what fun you all are having. I think your cousin Tom is a genius, Lucy! He must be a hit at all the family gatherings. I appreciate his instruction on how to create a limerick, too. And, everyone has written great limericks in the comments!

    Reading has always been my thing
    I spend money on books not bling
    When the bookshelves are full
    I just have to retool
    And build for my house a new wing.

  50. Jungle Red Writers have some big names.
    They don't need poetry to earn fame.
    They might sharpen their wits
    And write some nasty bits
    But to them, limerick writing's a game.

  51. So I'm sitting here at my flight gate.
    Dammit, looks like the plane will be late.
    If I catch my next flight
    It'll be after midnight
    When I get to Empire by the lake.

    As I wait here I just want to say
    Traverse City is far, far away.
    If I am not adroit
    Changing planes in Detroit
    I may have to get there the next day.

    Traveling often gives me the blues.
    TSA makes you take off your shoes
    Like you carry a rocket
    In your back trouser pocket
    Those bastards are nothing but rude.

  52. She packed the Grim Reaper a bowl
    When he came to lay claim to her soul
    He got so nicely baked
    That his vengeance was slaked
    Now he'll have to sign up for the dole

    (Writing this has taught me that not much rhymes with scythe.)

  53. Jungle Red writers are quite a hoot,
    writing verses will not earn them loot,
    Now I won't be crass,
    and say their rhymes give me gas,
    or that like eating beans, makes me "toot"

    OK, admittedly, I don't have cousin Tom's limickeral talent

    1. Oh ho Reds, meet my brotheršŸ˜ Even my 89 year old uncle sent a few. I'll try to get them up

  54. You have quite a talented family, Roberta/Lucy! It's been an entertaining day here at JRW!

    Deb Romano

  55. There once was a blog, Jungle Red,
    That I used to read before bed.
    Till hubby caught me
    And soundly stopped me,
    Saying read all their books instead.

  56. I want to meet Coralee.

  57. there once was girl named colleen
    and oh she was ever so mean
    she liked to pour water
    on everyone's daughter
    and then she met me
    Now she's free

  58. I once wrote a limerick at work,
    Not mine, my husband's. I'm a jerk.
    His boss looked at me,
    Then asked him, who's she?
    Don't know, said he. Not with me!

    True story. The boss was the resident limerick writer who started each presentation with one he wrote especially for his opening speech. We were invited to one other party at his new boss's house and were enjoying the evening when his teenage daughter pointed at me, like Mary Warren at the Salem witch trials, and said "That's her, Daddy. She's the one who gave me my first ticket and made me go back to driving school!"