Simon C’s post earlier in the week about the law book poem foreshadowed this week’s fillip, which is about poetry. Well, doggerel, more like. I thought we’d do a quick tour through some of the many kinds of quicki-verse invented to please and amuse.
Everyone’s favourite, this ya-ta-ta-ya-ta-ta-ta-ta verse was popularized — but not invented — by Edward Lear, one of the Victorian age’s eccentric versifiers and artists. Since his time, we’ve moved from nonsense to bawdiness, which makes it a bit tricky to feature a real limerick here. I mean, where do you go when you start with “There once was a legal researcher…”? The whole genre is one big double entendre. Even so…
I point you to OEDILF — the Ominificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form, wherein you’ll find more than thirty thousand of these perky pomes, which can be dipped into via categories, such as “legal terms.” Whence:
An appellant is one who does plea;
Begs the Court of Appeals to agree
That the lower court erred.
Wants reversal declared.
The opposing one’s called appellee.
Of which I’d never heard until the recent Harper’s reprinted one that appeared in the TLS. The difficult Samuel Beckett wrote what he called this “gloomy French doggerel.” These are dense and gnomic:
In the TLS and Harper’s piece a number of poets presented their translations. Roger O’Keefe, for instance, rendered Beckett: dream / without cease / or treaty /
I’ve only been able to find one other mirlitonnade online:
qu’il fasse rire
The author of the book containing the poem says “a rough crib might render the poem as ‘ahead / the worst / until the point / where it begets laughter'”. Have a go yourself at a translation. Less than a dozen words in French. How hard can it be?
As compact as Beckett’s mirlitonnades but not gloomy, haiku is Japan’s “one breath” poem. The conservative rule is 17 syllables in three lines of 5, 7, and 5, though some argue that 11 syllables in English (3, 5, 3) more closely approximates the compaction of the original Japanese form.
Here’s a classic by Basho (za saraba / yukimi ni korobu / okoromade – 1688) for the upcoming season:
now then, let’s go out
to enjoy the snow… until
I slip and fall!
If artifice is not your thing, try the Random Word Haiku generator, which, on my visit, came up with:
hussy musket mammiform,
Defined by Wikipedia this way:
* It is biographical and usually whimsical, showing the subject from an unusual point of view; but it is hardly ever satirical, abusive or obscene * It has four lines of irregular length (for comic effect) * The first line consists solely (or almost solely) of a well-known person’s name. The form was invented by and is named after Edmund Clerihew Bentley.
Sir Christopher Wren
Said, “I am going to dine with some men.
If anybody calls,
Say I am designing St Paul’s.”
So how do you finish:
Chief Justice McLachlin…