In the 19th century, Edward Lear was big on limericks. Ogden Nash, H.G. Wells, Lewis Carroll, Isaac Asimov and Salman Rushdie have all been known to pen the occasional rhyme.
Now, residents of the Lower Similkameen are being asked to try their hand at a little humorous verse in honour of Canada Literacy Day.
“Things get a little dull in the wintertime, and one of the light forms of verse that a lot of people enjoy is the five-line limerick,” said Dave Cursons, who is organizing the fun contest for Similkameen Family Literacy, which aims to increase the enjoyment and good use of language in read, heard, spoken and written communication for people of all ages.
“We had one once before about two years ago, and sometimes we have haiku contests. We thought it was time for a limerick contest,” he said.
A limerick has three solid beats per line, with the first two lines rhyming as do the third and fourth line. The last line rhymes with the first two, like this:
There was an old man from Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket
His daughter named Nan
Ran away with a man
And as for the bucket, Nan took it.
Cursons admits it isn’t the easiest rhyme scheme, but thinks it shouldn’t be out of range for late elementary or high school students. It’s a difficult verse pattern, he said, put it doesn’t rely on the writer being too precise.
“You don’t have to make a lot of sense, these are nonsense rhymes,” said Cursons. “I am told some people think they are very hard, but I think you should just sit down and write a few until you get one you just can’t resist and send it along. Write lots.”
Cursons said he has been writing a few limericks himself lately, just to remind himself of what he is asking people to do, even starting one off during while talking with the Western News:
There was a young man from Cawston,
who a smile and a wave were not lost on…
“It’s not really a rhyme, but you can play around and come up with some fairly interesting arrangements,” said Cursons. “It’s when you get to the last fifth line that has to rhyme with the first two that it gets to be a little awkward.”
Prizes will be gift certificates to Hooked on Books and the Dragon’s Den, with three for the 16 and under category and three for the 17 and older category.
Limericks can be entered via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line, “Limericks” or drop them off at either the Keremeos or Hedley Public Libraries.
Prizes will be awarded for the rhyming verse, originality and humour on Jan. 27, Canada Literacy Day, at the Keremeos Library. Winning limericks will be printed and available at the Keremeos and Hedley libraries.
For more information about the contest and Similkameen Family Literacy, contact Cursons at 250-499-2352, Local 107.
Reporter’s note: Dave Cursons decided to extend his answer to my questioning whether limericks were hard to write. Here’s eight limericks from Dave on the subject:
The rhyming may not pass the test
And the verse may be clumsy at best
But the limerick’s charm
Is it does no one harm
Save an affable slap on the back
You made fun of my bright purple kitty
Which I brought with me here from the city
She’s not purple by chance
Kitty’s coiffure enhanced
So back off you impolite twitty
Limericks are a queer sort of verse
Not noble or kind like a nurse
They are sometimes quite haughty
And are often quite naughty
But ever so clever and terse.
There was an old man from Chopaka
Who ran out of chewing tobacca
So he lit up some some mullen
To stop feeling so sullen
And found he’d been better for lack o’.
There was young woman from Fairview
Who managed a highway flag crew
When it came coffee time
She was said to define
It as fifteen, not twenty nor two.
A young lawyer hailing from Hedley
Who’s aim with a lawsuit was deadly
Found that when he grew old
He’d racked up so much gold
His circle of friends grew incred’bly
The rhyming is not hard to crack
Pen wise words or else pen the lack
Know a limerick’s charm
Is it does no real harm
Just another slap on the back
Limerick lovers are said to lack class
The verse is unworthy and crass
So what’s wrong with a laugh
That’s more worthy by half
Than a casual kick in the … backside.