Daily prompt: How to write a proper limerick


I thought about this prompt for quite a while: the roots of humanity and what a mess we’re making of it all by being selfish, greedy bastards for whom ‘responsibility’ has become a dirty word. And it depressed me so much I decided to write about limericks instead.

I am a purist about limericks. Someone has to be. To save the limerick from degenerating into any-old five lines, regardless of rhyme or rhythm and completely devoid of the artistry that makes a limerick a unique and recognisable poetic form. (Some people would argue that there’s nothing poetic about a limerick, but they are purists of a different sort and I’ll leave them to make their own case.)

Here are the basics:
A limerick has five lines.
These five lines have a set rhyme scheme: AABBA
The first, second and fifth lines have eight syllables *
The third and fourth lines have five syllables*
(*we’ll get to the variations in a minute)
These syllables are arranged in a strict pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables (metric feet) to create a specific rhythm, like this:

da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM

When writing a lim’rick you must
Abide by the rules, or it’s just
Five any-old lines
Which rarely defines
An opus of maximum thrust.

The variations:
You can add an extra da to the beginning of any line as the mood takes you (but it must be a da not a DUM).

Saying nothing at length is an art
Politicians must master quick smart
Lest perchance they make sense
Or fall off the fence
Or appear to be cursed with a heart.

You can add an extra da to the end of a line, provided you incorporate it into the rhyme.

If you don’t want a pet that’s excessive
Or messy or loud or aggressive,
Then dear little fleas
Might be just the bee’s knees –
And so cute and alert and expressive!

 Have a nice day.






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10 Responses to Daily prompt: How to write a proper limerick

  1. Bravo! I find poetry/limerick writing to be very difficult, technically speaking. I admire your ability!

    • If it is an ‘ability’ (I hesitate to lay claim to ‘abilities’) I put it down to the fact that my parents read us a lot of poetry when we were kids – A A Mile Hilaire Belloc etc, all meticulously rhymed and scanned. It’s not very useful to know how to write limericks, but its fun!

      • Poetry is a big deal up here in Cobalt. I resist taking part, because I am a literal thinker and since poetry is so much imagery, I am easily baffled and put off.
        Last week Cobalt hosted a Poetry Festival and a call went out for limericks. I thought I might try my hand – HA! I’ll stick to prose, I suppose. (Hey! That rhymes!)

  2. Embeecee says:

    I never had a clue. To ME? I ‘hear’ the rhythm in my head and it would drive me bonkers to read something ‘out of sync’ with regard to the limerick. I’ve hi-jacked this blog post as a citation for one of my own btw and hope that’s okay. People need educating…

  3. Pingback: Poetry Effort -3 | sparksfromacombustiblemind

  4. That’s absolutely brilliant. Please, publish a book on limericks!

  5. uapsnu says:

    The truth about Quentin McQuickers
    Is he keeps a kazoo in his knickers.
    Which explains how we heard
    Him play ‘Grease is the Word’’
    While sipping his tea at the vicar’s.

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