The limerick form, so it's reckoned,
Has a first line that rhymes with the second,
On the fourth and the third,
Something different is heard,
While the fifth returns to where beckoned.
You only need two things to write a limerick: a love of language, and an appreciation for the absurd. I’ve written them with everyone from university professors to primary school children, and I can assure you that what the younger generation might lack in vocabulary, they more than make up for with their aptitude for the downright ridiculous.
Unlike their short-form poetic rivals, most notably the lofty sonnet and the scrupulous haiku, limericks actively embrace new culture. As genuine articles of folklore, it’s the very act of sharing that keeps them alive. They take on new influences as they pass between people and through time, all the while being reworked, subverted, parodied, and plagiarised, free from the shackles that restrain classical literature.
Much has been said of what constitutes a good limerick, with many commentators decreeing that only the naughty ones are ever any good. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a naughty limerick. Indeed, there are many murky musings lurking in the depths of my Instagram. However, I do think a limerick can be much more than that. Within their five-line structure exists innumerable possibilities for the expression of emotion and the provocation of thought.
While their characteristically playful rhythm and rhyme might prompt whimsy, they also lend an air of serene charm to subjects of a more profound nature. This is because the primary function of rhyming is to make the disputable seem indisputable. The great English performance poet, John Cooper Clarke, put this best when he said, “...because it rhymes, that means it’s true”.
So, I write limericks about everything; from the personal, to the informative, to the entertaining. When they are ready, I illustrate them in bright, bold colours, and paint them as studio canvases and public murals.
WRITING ON LIMERICKS IN THE WALTHAM FOREST ECHO, AUGUST 2020.
A SELECTION OF MY ILLUSTRATED LIMERICKS