In today’s post, I have decided to tackle one of the very first poetry forms that I ever learned to write. Sometime in grade school, I was taught about the clerihew (along with the limerick and the haiku) and thus started my lifelong obsession with poetic forms.
Edmund Clerihew Bentley, the British humorist and novelist best known for (besides the poetry form which bears his middle name) his two detective novels “Trent’s Last Case” and ” Trent’s Own Case”, invented the clerihew when he was only sixteen. According to my calculations, since Bentley was born in 1875, the first clerihew was written in 1891.
The clerihew is a four line biographical poem that is usually comical, and has a rhyme scheme of aabb. The first line normally contains the name of a famous person (although you can use a fictional character or nonfamous person as an alternative). The length of the lines tend to be inconsistent, and the meter irregular. Like haiku, clerihews seldom have titles.
I am not sure if the clerihew is still being taught in schools, but I sure hope it is. It is a delightful form to play with, and when I was teaching my poetry workshop for children at a local library, the kids really seemed to enjoy writing them. So why don’t you try penning one today? I am sure you will have a great time like I did when I wrote the following eight:
A Collection of Clerihews
President Richard Milhous Nixon
was always fixin’
to retire early, but instead he resigned
when caught in a scandalous, political bind.
President Donald J. Trump
cured this nation’s economic slump
when he was elected and took over.
Now we are all rolling in clover.
Henry David Thoreau
liked to watch the trees grow.
He certainly wasn’t too fond
of anyone trying to deforest Walden Pond.
Edgar Allen Poe
was a talented but morose fellow
who wrote “The Tell-Tale Heart” & “The Raven”,
and preferred Providence to New Haven.
Captain James Tiberius Kirk
could be an overbearing jerk
suffering from a severe lack of tact.
He’d make long self-righteous speeches and overact.
Doctor Leonard “Bones” McCoy
never could express any joy,
yelling ” Damn it, Mister Spock,
I am actor, not a Doc!”
Old Walt Whitman
was a hit, man,
with his poetry and flowing beard,
yet still most people considered him quite weird.
Paul Michael Szlosek
suffered an anxiety attack
when he discovered that he left his autobiographical poem
on his desk at home.