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“Absurd’s the Word”

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There’s a person whose greatest of joys
Is attempting whatever annoys.
Like a horse, he will neigh*
And oppose all you say
While he’s boasting of days he destroys.

*a pun, of course, on “nay”.

A drunkard’s devising a plan
To ingest all the beer that he can.
On the river he’ll float
Without using a boat,
For he’ll soon be so buoyant a man.

There was an old man on a plane
Whose behavior was wholly insane.
He removed all his clothes
And then sucked on his toes.
‘Til the pilot had landed in Spain.

A man who enjoyed a good laugh
Decided to buy a giraffe.
When struck by its tongue,
He punctured a lung
And found it more painful to laugh.

There was once a grumpy old owl
Who regarded all men with a scowl
To describe her in words,
It was said by some birds
She “was foul as the foulest of fowl*.”

*chicken-like bird; owls are not considered fowl

5 limericks by Paul Burgess



How to Write Limericks: a Brief Introduction to Poetic Form

“What is a limerick, and why do you write them?”
As my followers have likely noticed, I write more limericks than any self-respecting person should. Some people might wonder why an otherwise normal human being would dedicate so much time and thought to writing absurd poems. The answer is simple: limericks are fun and easy to write, composing them is an enjoyable mental exercise, and sharing them can brighten a person’s day.

Perhaps some of you would like to give writing limericks a try. If so, you might enjoy this guide clarifying the form’s distinguishing features. [Those interested in poetic form, in general, might also benefit from this brief guide’s explanation of essential poetic terms and concepts.]

The form: Limericks are five-line anapestic poems containing three lines of rhyming anapestic trimeter and two lines of rhyming anapestic dimeter. The rhyme scheme is AABBA.

“What is an anapest?”
An anapest is a metrical foot. Before explaining anapests, I will familiarize you with poetic feet. In poetry, a foot is a pattern of unstressed and stressed syllables. The most common foot in English-language poetry is the iamb, which contains an unstressed syllable (usually notated as “u”) followed by a stressed or accented syllable (usually notated as ´); for readers’ benefit, I will use capital letters to indicate stressed syllables and lowercase letters to indicate unstressed ones. Some examples of iambs would be: reCEIVE, beLIEVE, the CAT. Prepositions, articles, and conjunctions tend to be unstressed. To determine which syllables of a polysyllabic word are stressed and which unstressed, divide the word into syllables and pronounce the word while paying attention to the length of each syllable’s sound.

While iambs contain two syllables, anapests contain three that follow a pattern of unstressed, unstressed, stressed: the beLIEF, to deCEIVE, with a BROOM, in the WOODS. Since anapests occur less frequently and naturally in regular speech than iambs, the consecutive anapests in limericks’ lines have a musical and often whimsical quality that distinguishes them clearly as poetry and makes them fun to recite.

“What are dimeter and trimeter?
“Meter” refers to the number and type of poetic feet in a line. Two-part names are used to identify meter: 1. Type of foot [anapest=anapestic, iamb=iambic]; 2. Numerical prefix + “meter” [monometer, dimeter, trimeter, tetrameter, pentameter, etc.]. If the foot is, for example, an iamb, one might refer to the meter as “iambic pentameter.” A line of iambic pentameter—the most common meter in Anglophone poetry—contains five [“penta-“] iambs; for example, “She’d MURD/ered PEOP/le JUST/to WATCH/them DIE” (from my poem “Portrait of a Mass Murder”: https://paulwhitberg.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/portrait-of-a-mass-murderer/ ). Scanning the previous example will reveal that the line contains ten syllables divided into five iambs.

In limericks, anapestic trimeter is the meter of lines one, two, and five. The following limericks, which you might recognize from my blog ( https://paulwhitberg.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/5-limericks-a-day-to-keep-the-dr-away-by-paul-oburgess-day-14/), will serve nicely as examples. For now, please study lines one, two, and five; the slashes divide the lines into anapests.
at the EDGE,/ he said, “JUMP/ now and DIE!”
But the GIRL/ still reFUSED/ to comPLY.
To make her obey,
He yodeled all day,
And she WAS/ thus perSUAD/ed to FLY.

Please note that many limerick writers substitute an iamb for the first foot of some lines; this substitution is especially common in a limerick’s first line:
a MAN/ who had BROK/en some HEARTS
DeCID/ed to SELL/ them at MARTS.
“Though unable to beat,
There’s no tastier meat,”
he’d SAY/when proMOT/ing those PARTS.

Notice how the first foot (“a MAN”) is an iamb, but the following feet (“who had BROK/en some HEARTS”) are anapests. Despite the initial iambic substitution, the line’s meter is still considered to be anapestic trimeter.

The meter of lines three and four is anapestic dimeter: “though unAB/le to BEAT” and “there’s no TAST/i er MEAT”).
“What is an AABBA rhyme scheme?”
“Rhyme scheme” refers to the pattern of ending rhymes, and ending rhymes are simply words concluding a line that rhyme with words concluding other lines. The traditional method for indicating rhyme schemes is to assign different letters to lines that end with different sounds. If two lines contain the same final sound, one should assign the same letter to both lines. Since it is the first line, “A man who had broken some hearts” would be labeled “A,” and since they rhyme with the first line, the following lines would also be labeled “A”: “Decided to sell them at marts” and “He’d say when promoting those parts.” Line three—“Though unable to beat”–is labeled “B” because it does not rhyme with the first two lines.

“Here endeth the guide”
Thank you for reading, and feel free to contact me with any questions about limericks and poetic form. Please let me know if you would like for me to clarify anything in this guide or write explanations of other forms.

by Paul Burgess


5 Limericks a Day [to Keep the Dr. Away] By Paul O’Burgess (Day 14)

Even my harsh inner critic agrees that today’s first limerick, “Heartbreaker,” is worthy of the Nonsense Hall of Fame;) I think that this is the strongest group of limericks I’ve posted since the first few days of this series. Please let me know what you think.

A man who had broken some hearts
Decided to sell them at marts.
“Though unable to beat,
There’s no tastier meat,”
He’d say when promoting those parts.

“Stew from Peru”
There was once a chef from Peru
Who was widely renowned for his stew—
Which he bought from a store
Then proceeded to pour
And simmer inside of a shoe.

“A Couple Climbed a Cliff, then…”
At the edge, he said, “Jump now and die!”
But the girl still refused to comply.
To make her obey,
He yodeled all day,
And she was thus persuaded to fly.

“Your Ugly Friends”
“What’s the reason I did not invite
Your friends to our dinner tonight?
To not have to pretend
That it does not offend
Me to suffer so sorry a sight.”

“A Paranormal An Abnormal Medium”
There was once a lady in red
Who believed she could talk to the dead.
She served as the host
To many a ghost
That existed in only her head.

“Egalitarian” [Devil’s Derivations/Etymologies from Hell #5] by Dr. Burgess

“Egalitarian” was originally a term of ridicule employed by a capitalist who accused his socialist opponent of “consuming the eagles soaring above the herd.” This word, meaning originally “those who eat eagles,” was coined by analogy with “vegetarian,”* meaning “those who eat primarily vegetables and avoid eating animals.” Undergoing a type of transformation common in the history of languages, “egalitarian” became a word with positive connotations thanks to social changes and its fortuitous similarity to “equalitarian”.

*Some might suggest that “aquilavore”—“Aquila” + “vor[are]e,” modeled on “carnivore” and “omnivore”—would have been a more appropriate term than “egalitarian.” “Vegetarian,” the word on which “egalitarian” is based, raises an interesting question: “If vegetarians eat primarily vegetables, why don’t humanitarians eat humans?”

5 Limericks a Day (to Keep the Dr. Away)Day 1–By Paul O’Burgess

Day 1

There was once a lawyer so kind
That he’d sue all the men who were blind.
“You have not the right
To be lacking your sight,”
Were the words of that lawyer so kind.
The people from a nation of note
Elected to office a goat.
“He’s not nearly as bad
As the humans we’ve had,”
Said those who for that creature did vote.
A man who to London once came
Insisted his tiger was tame.
When a swipe of its paw
Destroyed the man’s jaw,
Was the tiger really to blame?
There was once a priest so divine
Who gave me some bread and some wine.
When fell I asleep,
He attempted to peep
At my grapes and to handle my vine.
I met the philosopher Hume
And battered his head with a broom.
When he begged to know why,
I would only reply,
“To name causes I’d best not presume.”