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Jan"s Poetry Class--CLERIHEW

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Jan"s Poetry Class--CLERIHEW

Postby glorybee » Mon Oct 26, 2009 6:55 am

Thanks for being patient with me while I vacationed last week…I hope I haven’t lost anyone. I’ll continue with another very short form of poetry—one that couldn’t be an entire Challenge entry, but that will strrrrrrretch your poetic muscles. I suspect that this one will be a problem for our best poets (the ones who are sticklers on rhyme and meter).

A clerihew is a humorous 4-line poem with a real person as its subject. Here are its main characteristics:

1. Rhyme scheme is (aabb)
2. Line length and meter are deliberately uneven, for humorous effect
3. The first line consists entirely of a person’s name. (In some variants, the first line ends with a person’s name, but may contain other words)
4. Line 2 may be a “forced” rhyme, in order to rhyme with the person’s name.
5. Lines 2, 3, and 4 are humorous commentary on that person’s life. Clerihews aren’t generally mean-spirited, but may poke gentle fun at the subject.
6. While lines 1 and 2 may be roughly equal in length, lines 3 and 4 may be quite long or quite short, with no regular meter.


Here’s a clerihew written by its originator, a fellow named Edmund Clarihew Bentley:

George the third
Ought never to have occurred.
One can only wonder
At so grotesque a blunder.

And another, same author:

When Alexander Pope
Accidentally trod on the soap,
And came down on the back of his head—
Never mind what he said.

Why should poets be familiar with clerihew?

1. They’re a great way to get out of a rut. If you’re usually serious—clerihews are not. If you’re a strict “meter-ist”—clerihews are not.

2. They give you practice in putting that little stinger at the end, which is a good skill for writers of both poetry and prose.

3. They’re great for getting you to recognize “forced” rhyme—so that you can avoid it in more serious poetry. Essentially, clerihews are deliberately bad poetry. If you can recognize the badness, you’re more likely to recognize it in your own poetry—and to take care of it!

4. They force you to practice an economy of words. Some of us tend to go on and on and on and on and on and on…

5. Like the Writing Challenge, a clerihew has a very specific prompt. Write about a real person, living or dead.

6. Good poets should be familiar will as many types of poetry as possible—from the sublime to the ridiculous. It will make you a more well-rounded poet.

An aside: if you’re getting impatient with these teeny little poem forms, hang in there—they’ll get longer and more complicated over the winter months. I’m just creating building blocks, so to speak.

On to some clerihews, then! Here’s a silly example, about my adorable granddaughter, pictured here:

Image

Piper Addison Earley
Has hair that isn’t curly
In fact, I believe what her hair is called
Is bald.

And here’s one I whipped up about a historical figure:

Edgar Allan Poe
Wrote sordid tales of woe.
Freshman students find him a great bore
And wish his raven would stop squawking “Nevermore.”

And finally, one about a current celebrity:

Bette Midler
Isn’t much of a fiddler
But on “Wind Beneath My Wings”
The lady sings!

That last one was pretty horrible, I freely admit. I included it to illustrate that “forced rhyme” bit. There’s not much that rhymes with “Midler”, so “fiddler” it was, despite the fact that the poem isn’t about fiddling, not in the least.

Homework: Write one or two clarihews.

I’d encourage you to keep the “poking gentle fun” aspect of a clerihew in mind, particularly if you’re writing about a living person. Clerihews aren’t really the place for satire or for pointed political commentary.


As always, I welcome discussion on this form. Do you see reasons for mastering clerihew that I haven’t listed here? Did you find them easy or difficult to write? What was hardest for you? Do you enjoy this form of poetry? Why or why not?
Last edited by glorybee on Mon Nov 16, 2009 7:19 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby glorybee » Mon Oct 26, 2009 1:29 pm

Bumping, because I forgot to "sticky" this one!
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Postby yvonne » Mon Oct 26, 2009 4:30 pm

*smile* I knew you'd get Piper in there eventually!

Here's one about my granddaughter:

Evelyn Amy Webber
Has the cutest wittle mouth ebber;
Even turning down
Her coochy-poochy lip is the most adorable frown.

(How did you get a picture on here? I've got one of Evelyn's pout.)


HA HA HA....talk about forced rhyme!

I owe you another, but I'll have to think of a good character. :lol:

Vonnie

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Postby colin_nielsen » Mon Oct 26, 2009 5:02 pm

Here is one about my daughter.

Courtney Paige
used to get into such a rage
but eventually she learned to turn her frown
upside down

Quite silly, I know.
Why would a young man live in a wasteland when the castle of his dreams is standing by?
Why would a princess put on an old dress to dance with her beloved and the chance to catch his eye?

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Postby glorybee » Mon Oct 26, 2009 5:41 pm

Good job, folks!

But as cute as she is, I'm regretting including the one about Piper. Because clerihews are really supposed to be written about famous people. So Vonnie and Colin--great!

Now write one about someone well-known.

Vonnie, you have to "park" your photo at a place like PhotoBucket (a free website). Then you can post it here. The site will walk you through the process.
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Postby CatLin » Mon Oct 26, 2009 5:50 pm

I like the short poems. :D This is a new one for me. But then, most all of the poetry forms will likely be new ones for me. :lol:

Here are my first ever attempts at Clerihew:

Charles Dickens –
His name a writer’s heart quickens
Reading his work, though, is another thing entirely
His prose tends to get quite mirely.


Mr. Tidy Bowl Man
Was it part of God’s plan?
Did you every try to foil it?
Or just accept that your home would be a toilet?

:mrgreen:
Last edited by CatLin on Mon Oct 26, 2009 5:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby CatLin » Mon Oct 26, 2009 5:53 pm

A question (not poetry related) - I've discovered I use the word "just" a LOT. Would the last line of "Tidy Bowl Man" be better without it? Or substitute "merely"? (I've started doing that sometimes.)
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Postby glorybee » Mon Oct 26, 2009 6:04 pm

Catrina, those are PRICELESS!

I've never noticed your use or over-use of "just". "Merely" is a good substitute--I suppose it would makes more difference in a metered poem, since "just" and "merely" have different syllable counts. But I wouldn't lose sleep over it.
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Postby Kid Denver » Mon Oct 26, 2009 6:22 pm

Samuel Clemmons hid from fame
by creating a Mark Twain
Huck and Tom could sure find trouble
playing pranks with Sam's double

Honest Abe could never lie
unless he ate his mama's pie
she used real apples Abe picked from trees
then baked a zert not fit for fleas

I never cared for Mister Obama
didn't listen to my girlfriend's mama
she voted for him and I did not
I still have health care, she has squat
Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,... Col. 3:23

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Postby yvonne » Mon Oct 26, 2009 7:38 pm

You mean my grandbaby isn't famous yet? :o

Okay, okay...here's a couple more:

Johnny Appleseed,
Quite a peculiar breed,
Hiked high and low across the west,
Ate the flesh of the apples and planted the rest.

Leif Erikson
Sailed over the horizon
Looking for a place to stand,
And bumped into Newfoundland.

Blah! These are hard to make the rhythm unmetered!
I feel like a third grader writing poems for history class.
It grates against my nerves to read them out loud. :violin

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Postby colin_nielsen » Mon Oct 26, 2009 8:14 pm

Okay: how about this one then.

This one's for our good ole prime minister Kevin Rudd. Here's a bit of backstory: he had a hissy fit because the air force plane he was flying didn't have the kind of food he wanted. He ended up threatening a stewardess and reducing her to tears.

Good ole Kevin
Became prime minister in 07
He's jolly in public when seen
but get him alone and he's angry and mean.
Why would a young man live in a wasteland when the castle of his dreams is standing by?
Why would a princess put on an old dress to dance with her beloved and the chance to catch his eye?

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Postby Allison » Mon Oct 26, 2009 8:16 pm

Oh my. I still remember one I wrote in like... 5th grade for a poetry calendar. I decided to use my 1st and middle names, rather than first and last. On my... I can't believe I'm sharing 5th grade poetry with you, but here goes.

Allison Joy
Isn't a boy
Her birthday's in May
On the 20th day.

And let's see if I can pull one or two off with uneven meter and more "poking fun."

Okay... Using my middle name again....

Allison Joy
Is the height of a boy
And when student teaching
Had her students do the reaching.

Here's another one... I'm not sure it "pokes fun," exactly, but it's still fun. :)

Allison Egley
Throws eggs vaguely
At her across the street neighbors
The Eggers.

(And yes, we really do live across the street from the Eggers. Eggers and Egleys. And we've joked about having an Egger vs. Egley egg fight.)
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Isaiah 40:30-31 (NIV)

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Postby yvonne » Mon Oct 26, 2009 8:21 pm

Allison, I loved those! Ha Ha Ha! :heehee

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Postby glorybee » Mon Oct 26, 2009 8:25 pm

Kid Denver wrote:Samuel Clemmons hid from fame
by creating a Mark Twain
Huck and Tom could sure find trouble
playing pranks with Sam's double

Honest Abe could never lie
unless he ate his mama's pie
she used real apples Abe picked from trees
then baked a zert not fit for fleas

I never cared for Mister Obama
didn't listen to my girlfriend's mama
she voted for him and I did not
I still have health care, she has squat


Henry, you have no idea how happy these make me...because they give me a chance to mildly correct the guy who I think is one of FaithWriters' finest poets.

If you're going to include words other than a name in the first line, the line should END with the person's name. You did it right on the 3rd one. But if at all possible, have line 1 be just a name.

And these are just too regular in meter--they're not perfect, but close, and a cinquain should be far more irregular.

I KNEW this would be hard for excellent poets!

I'll bet I get Round Two from you, though.
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Postby glorybee » Mon Oct 26, 2009 8:26 pm

yvonne wrote:Johnny Appleseed,
Quite a peculiar breed,
Hiked high and low across the west,
Ate the flesh of the apples and planted the rest.

Leif Erikson
Sailed over the horizon
Looking for a place to stand,
And bumped into Newfoundland.

It grates against my nerves to read them out loud. :violin


LOL, Vonnie, you're another one who I know would be irked by this form. Try to look at it as a freeing experience!
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