There Once Was a Form Called the Limerick

This will not be an academic response, but just what I feel and think immediately after reading… works of poetry. 

This is the direction Chief Muse Kelly had set for All Nine shortly before I came on board in 2012 – not to dissect and analyze poems, not to tie them to chairs and beat them with rubber hoses until they confess their secrets, but simply to experience and respond to them.

That said, in all the years since I met limericks sometime around the fourth grade, and after reading dozens of them in the past week, I feel that the limerick and I just don’t click.  I find most examples of the form sing-songy, nonsensical, or bawdy, or all the above – which is precisely what a limerick is supposed to be; it’s just not my cup of tea.

But as I was researching a little, I came across something that hadn’t occurred to me before:

“Implicit in the limerick’s rhyme-and-rhythm-associated-with-humor is a challenge:  can anyone write a limerick that does not seem to be trying for a laugh?  Is a ‘serious limerick’ possible?…How about a serious limerick on the subject of death?”  The Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms, edited by Ron Padgett

I didn’t feel quite up to tackling death in anapest, but I do enjoy a challenge, so I mused on the idea of ‘serious limerick’ for a while, and here’s what came to me:

Do you know of the Irishman Lewis?
His writings have been passed down to us:
they teach and upright us,
comfort and delight us,
and sometimes they simply undo us.

Becka Choat is a reader, a writer, a lover of the printed word, dedicated to bringing people books to nourish mind, soul, and spirit. Her website is

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