A limerick is a short, comic, and almost musical poem that usually borders on the absurd or obscene. Made popular in English by Edward Lear (which is why Limerick Day is celebrated on his birthday, May 12). To write them, you need a little practice at first, but then you will be addicted to these clever and whimsical rhymes.
Method 1 of 2: Create Your Limerick
Step 1. Get to know the basic characteristics of the Limerick
Although there are slight variations in this style of poetry, they are all within the same rhythmic range. A true Limerick has five lines; the first, second, and fifth rhyme with each other, and the third and fourth with each other. In addition to the rhyme, consider:
- The number of syllables. The first, second, and fifth lines should have eight or nine syllables, while the third and fourth should have five or six.
- The metric. A Limerick has a certain "rhythm" created by the way the syllables are stressed.
- The anapestic metric. Two short syllables are followed by a long accented one (da-da-DAM, da-da-DAM). Here's an example (note that the accent falls naturally on italicized syllables): It was the night before Christmas and it all happened at home.
- The amphibrachic metric. One long syllable (stressed) in the middle of two short ones (da-DAM-da, da-DAM-da). Example: She, still young from her house.
- Lines may start at two, one, or occasionally no unstressed sound. Some prefer to keep pace from one line to the next, especially when a sentence continues on the next line, but this is not essential.
Step 2. Pick the end of the first line
Knowing this early on will help you mentally filter the rhymes. The end of the starting line is usually a geographic location. Choose Rome. Notice that the first syllable of Roma is stressed, which leaves us with a short syllable at the end of the line. Another example: Madrid. Notice that the second syllable of Madrid is stressed. This will create two different Limericks.
- Choose a place like Samothrace or Zzyzx can embark you in an arduous poetic battle. The more common the sound, the more rhymes you will have at your disposal.
You don't have to choose a place! Or that place doesn't have to be a city: "There was once a girl in a shoe", it's more vivid than a girl living in a boring city
Step 3. Think of different words that rhyme with the end of your first line
Let the story and punchline of your Limerick be inspired by the rhymes you create. After all, a good Limerick is consistent and resourceful. Let's go back to "Rome" and "Madrid".
- Because Roma is stressed on the first syllable, you will have to rhyme with both syllables. The first words that come to mind: take, joke, or perhaps a different combination of these words.
- Because Madrid is stressed on the second syllable, you just have to rhyme with that syllable. The first words that come to mind: say, live, el cid. Write your own list.
Step 4. Make associations with the words that rhyme
The two examples we use are already beginning to form their own sensation. For Rome, with words like joke and Rome, you can try a limerick on joviality. And for Madrid, with the combination of el cid, lid and dormid, you could create a limerick about an illusory battle.
Go through the list you created and think of little stories about what could have happened and how you could connect it to your ideas. Associations don't have to be closely related. Sometimes the more absurd, the funnier the limerick is. Your limerick will be a success as long as it manages to paint a picture on the reader's head
Step 5. Pick a story that appeals to you
Decide which person (s) you will introduce on line 1. What is important about him or her? Are you focusing on profession, social status, age, health, or a specific stage in their lives?
- For limerick from Rome you could use the word "naughty." Something anyone could relate to!
- For the limerick from Madrid, you could think of the word "distinguished" with something to follow.
Method 2 of 2: Put the Words Together
Step 1. Make the first line good and fit the metric
The word you choose will determine what type of metric you will use. Don't worry, you will be able to hear which one works and which one doesn't. Let's continue with our two examples:
- Example 1, Naughty and Roma: “Naughty” is stressed on the 3rd syllable. Roma begins with a stressed syllable. That means we will need one more long syllable at the beginning and we only have room for a short syllable between "naughty" and "Roma". So it might turn out: "He's so naughty in Rome."
- Example 2, distinguished and Madrid: “Distinguido” is stressed on the second syllable. Combined with "de Madrid", we are left with only two syllables in the middle, with the second stressed. You can solve this, for example, by borrowing from a foreign language: Madrid's distinguished beau monde. "
Step 2. Choose a situation or action with which your character can start
This is the starting point of your story or joke. Use one of the rhyming words on your list to complete the second line.
- Example 1: "He is so naughty in Rome that everything he says is considered a joke." This is a basis for successful limerick.
- Example 2: The distinguished beau monde from Madrid, emulating the good cid.
Step 3. Think of a "twist" for your story
Reserve the auction for the last line considering the rhyme of the words in the 3rd and 4th lines. The fun of limerick is waiting 4 lines for the final shot.
- A limerick frequently borders on the obscene. You can make your character's intimacy hilarious (without making this too explicit). How about: "And when a lady teases you, she does it on her blunt side"? That is suitable for the whole family.
- Example 2: Think Lid and Sleep. You may notice that the words bravery and manliness have a similar ending. That would be a good way to continue and it would establish your imagery.
Step 4. Close the story with a punchline
Go back to your list of rhyming words and find a good one that makes sense of it all. This is the hardest part. Don't be discouraged if your first limericks aren't funny. Remember that, first, it's a matter of taste, and second: everything takes practice. And sometimes it's all a matter of finding the right starting word to put together your rhymes!
- Our example from Rome has evolved very well: He is so mischievous in Rome that everything he says is considered a joke. And when a lady teases him, it is on his blunt side.
- The example of Madrid too: The distinguished beau monde of Madrid, emulating the good cid. He invites courageously to the fight, but his wife orders him: sleep! He shouts war with courage, but a rooster's voice casts down his manhood.
- If you're stuck, try looking at some other limericks. Each writer's limerick has a special and individual “feel”. You will never know which one of them will get you through your writer's block.
- Clap when you recite your limerick out loud. It will help you feel the metric and check if it has the correct rhythm.
- Choose animals, plants, or people as topics to start with. Don't start with something too abstract.
- Read some Edward Lear limericks and absurd poems.
- Love poems are more difficult to write. Limericks are jokes, not love poems.
- Use the alphabet. This will allow you to quickly obtain an unlimited number of rhymes. For example, take the word "rock", put away the "goose" and simply use the alphabet: rock … mouth … When you have mentally reviewed the 27 letters, you will have at least a mouth, coca, crazy, etc.
- When you get more experience, try experimenting with internal rhyme, alliteration, or assonance to make your poem more special.
- There are many print and online rhyming dictionaries that can help. You can also search online by suffixes and whole words (in addition to searching by syllables, of course).