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Limericks — How It All Started For Me

Power of the Pen – Limericks

St. Paddy’s Day weekend 2009, I read my poems publicly for the first time at an open mic event. Terrified at exposing my babies to the harsh elements of public view. Even more terrified at the form I chose — limericks.

The Poetic Muselings were experimenting with different forms, and this was a huge stretch, but what better way to go all the way out on the limb?  Here’s what gave me strength to lead us on our journey. If political satire (especially in an election year) upset you, perhaps you want to skip this musing.

Power of the Pen

We need a new four-letter word
To deny this is simply absurd.
To say what we mean
and not be obscene —

The best way for the herds to be heard

****************

Hooray for good old “uck”
One letter changes a duck
into something we find —
outrageous? sublime?

the epitome of our yucked-up old luck?

****************

Politicians are so damn perverse
Campaigning should all be in verse
let rapier wits
expose all the twits

Then watch them go lurch in reverse

***************

The elected have grandiose schemes
to fix economic machines
Trust us, they say
we work magic today

Naked Emperors with unraveled seams

***********

Don’t worry, my darling, my honey
They’re only just stealing our money
They really don’t care
that they trade in despair —

Now tell me how that can’t be funny.

*****

A Series of Limericks: tips included

Limericks are not my strength. Try as I might, I cannot spin them off the top of my head. It took me all day to get two decent ones. If you’re not familiar with the form, I found a good guide on About.com by Grace Fleming: How to Write a Limerick. Here are a few tricks I use to get through them:

  1. Do the first two lines (the setup) and the last line (the punchline) first. All these have the same rhyme, and gives you the frame to work with. Then fill in lines three and four (transition) which only have to rhyme with each other.
  2. Use a rhyming dictionary! I use The Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary. Helps for getting out of tight corners when you use a word with not very many rhymes.
  3. Along the last lines, sometimes you have this idea you want, but can’t find workable rhymes. Like in my second limerick below, I wanted to do “Sang for her supper” but could NOT get a decent follow up. Solution: find a synonym. A thesaurus is a handy tool for poets.
  4. If you still struggle coming up with something, give yourself a theme. Write about a friend, or a book character, or spin off a fairy tale. Have fun with it!

Without further ado, here are my two Limericks.

Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood (Photo credit: lllllT)

There once was a red-hooded girl
Who through the dark woods did twirl
‘Til a sound made her scream
And fall in a stream
Turned out it was only a squirrel

There once was a girl from Cancun
Who couldn’t carry a tune
Her song for a meal
Made a werewolf reel
And now she howls at the moon

Focus on Form: Lip-Synch a Limerick

English: A pair of high heeled shoe with 12cm ...

Time for something fun, poetry fans. Put away that solemn face and let your Inner Child out to play by writing a limerick.

In its simplest form, the limerick has five lines. It is lighthearted,  sometimes naughty, witty and provokes a laugh. If you want to be a stickler for the form, Wiki says it is “anapestic or amphibrachic meter with a strict rhyme scheme (AABBA)”.  Follow that or do your own thing. like I did below.

A Sad Tale

by

Lin Neiswender

There was a young lad from ‘Bama
With a taste for glitter and glammah
His designer stiletto shoe
Too high for his hair doo
Made him spend the night in the slammah.

My Voice

I’ve been thinking about voice a lot lately. Voice, as in writer’s voice, what is it, where does it come from, what influences it. As a writer, I love words and word play, have a good knowledge of English grammar, can speak, read and write French well enough to carry on a conversation, read a book, and appreciate some of the differences in the grammars. I enjoy humor and like writing all kinds of humorous poetry.

Many things have influenced me as a writer, but one of the biggest was my father. An attorney who appeared twice before the Supreme Court, he love the English language and was adamant about correct usage. Every time my sister or I would make a mistake, he would repeat the whole rule and its explanation. Not simply the correction. The whole, blasted thing. He also refused, generally, to give us the meaning of a word; he made us look them up ourselves. At the time I found the whole thing beyond annoying. Now I view it as one of the biggest gifts he could have given me.

He also encouraged us to read widely. I recall reading Damon Runyon and O’Henry among others at about age twelve, and having to look up about one word in every sentence. Talk about vocabulary building! And I can still recall discussions about points of grammar around the dinner table.

The New York Times crossword puzzle was another big influence, in that it led to my developing my own algorithm for generating rhymes. I am an auditory learner, and one day while doing the puzzle, searching for a word where I had the first letter, I realized that there were a very limited selection of sounds that could follow:
Consonant plus L sound: for example C plus L as in clap
Consonant plus R sound: for example C plus L as in crap
For some, Consonant plus W sound:   C plus W sound would be cwap — nope, that one’s not a word.
For S, C, and T: consonant plus H
For letter q: KW is the sound
Special case : S : S plus most of the others: S plus C , S plus C plus L, S plus C plus R…

But NOTE well.  We’re talking about SOUNDS, not spelling. I use C for the K sound.
If you’re visual and this throws you off, this system might not work for you. fat frat flat

I’ve used this algorithm for years. I love to rhyme, and although I now occasionally look up the rhymes using rhymezone.com, I can go through my own algorithm pretty quickly. I do better that way, because it forces me to contemplate each word and whether or not it would fit in the poem.

Although I love music and play the flute and the piccolo, I don’t listen to music as I write, nor do I see images when I listen to music. When I listen to music, I listen to music. It evokes emotions, but I don’t see pictures unreeling in my brain. I know some writers are inspired by music, like to write to music, and the like. I don’t, not in the way most people mean. I do find music to be very freeing when I’m letting my mind wander, contemplate plot, character, or whatever.

I have written several poems that were music-inspired. In  the cases I can remember, I was in my car listening to the radio when a particular song — or songs — got me started on a poem. Here is one of them. The first part of the first stanza was what was happening when the Kenny Chesney song started to play on the radio. I did have to go search out the titles of some of his other songs in order to fill out my conception of the poem. I’m nobly resisting the urge to revise it. It was published in an ezine:

Crack Up

Swish through car-lit darkness
Past squares of light,
street signs sparkling green and white.
Roll down your window,
feel the lemon air
ruffle what’s left of your hair.
Kenny Chesney blaring on the radio
loud enough to silence the thoughts in your head
waiting to be drowned in a cold beer.

Your wheels slide through ghosts of clouds,
past skeleton trees waving bare arms,
past lighted windows with families eating
roast chicken, green beans, potatoes
while the letter from your daughter
crinkles in your back pocket,
your seat belt chafing as
Kenny croons Who you’d Be Today.

The smell of leaf smoke drifts
through the window
as you drive at twenty-five miles per hour
past the cop in the turn-out on your left,
as the rain starts dripping down your windshield
and your windshield wipers quit.
You reach for a beer
as Kenny starts singing Keg in the Closet

Your car drifts into the center of the road
as you drop the empty on the floor,
reach behind you for another,
one hand on the wheel.
The car skids on wet leaves
going around that curve in the road
you forgot was there
and Kenny sings Steamy Windows.

The sweat drips down your neck
as you wrestle with the steering wheel,
brake on the empties,
your seat belt unfastened.
Skid into the tree.
Glass arrows your cheek your eye.
You’re bleeding from your ear.
Somewhere Kenny’s singing How Forever Feels.

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True to My Nature

“Musicians must make music, artists must paint, poets must write if they are to be ultimately at peace with themselves. What humans can be, they must be. They must be true to their own nature.” — Abraham Maslow

Art Supplies

A R T

I pull the cardboard box off the shelf
too long dusty
set it on the cleared table
trace my finger over the markered three letters
and open
creation in a box

I remove the items one by one
too long neglected
set them in their proper place
next to water, canvas, towel
and tally
creation in a box

I see pencils, paints, stencils,
too long idle
set by projects incomplete
search for a paint brush
and initiate
creation in a box

I wet the brush and moisten paints
too long dried out
set colors to a scantily clad canvas
bringing life to the scene
and treasure
creation in a box

Though I like to dabble in art, and do crafts with my son, I don’t consider myself much of an artist. That’s Lin‘s territory. I’m more comfortable with the written word. Over the years, I’ve learned that even when I am not writing, I still need to be creating to feel alive. Whether a poem, a story, a craft project, a dessert, or even a house in Sims 3. As Maslow says, I must be true to my nature. I must create.

We are all creators… not just of art, but relationships, homes, personal space, etc. What do you create? Why do you create?

Lin’s Senryu

#1880 winner of manner poetry contest

I’m a beginner at Senryu and in addition to Margaret’s great links, found this link helpful: Haiku or Senryu? How to Tell the Difference.
I followed the syllable count but switched the lines. Here’s my first stab at it:

 

Hot packed waiting room

Doctor gives bad news

How lovely is the sunshine

Margaret’s Senryu

My Senryu, and fun with GIMP.

I’ve been having a blast lately playing with the color manipulation functions with GIMP, though I have yet to read the book I bought that goes through all the features. Consequently, I have a nice directory full of road photos, a great many of which I’ve played with using GIMP.

Last night Michele emailed me and asked me if I could take today’s blog post and create a Senryu. So I grabbed an image from my Pictures directory and wrote about it.

Night Road

Night Road, photo by me, digital manipulation courtesy of GIMP

Psychedelic sky

Dream made visible

Night Road, photo by me, digital manipulation courtesy of GIMP

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