Clerihews on review

Poetry is a broad artistic pursuit.  There are many forms, styles, and qualities.  Poets come in all sizes, shapes, and accomplishments.  There are poems which posses little hope of being mistaken for great literature… but still may offer a little smirk.  For me the limerick often does the trick.  The clerihew comes fast on the heels in this category.  I happened upon the clerihew once, but for some unremembered reason didn’t grasp their potential.  Recently happened upon them again at a blog by a fellow curmudgeon in England – Quercuscommunity    .   The curious can read more about clerihews here

The concept of the clerihew is quite simple (perhaps the reason I can manage it)… you tell a short story about a person, typically naming said person at the end of line one.  Use four lines with a rhyme pattern of AABB.  Short and sweet seems to be preferred.

Recent events across the pond with the Royal family inspired me to pen this one:

Her highness Elizabeth
A family to deal with
Red in tooth and claw

[this was published as a comment at quercuscommunity, and my thanks to him for letting me steal it back]…

I have a handful more to offer:

poem pic

Lesson learned?  On the one hand you might just make up a clerihew for the sport of it.  But I think a case can be made to pen clerihews for their mnemonic value – such as the one on Pliny the Elder… or the Wright brothers whose fame at Kitty Hawk is more easily recalled, but Kill Devil Hills earlier in their history proved a laboratory worth remembering.

It hasn’t escaped my notice that with very little effort one can pen a limerick easily from a clerihew by appending one more line to rhyme with the first two (AABBA).

Why not a clerihew for Janathan Swift, or Lemuel Gulliver?  Working on them.  I feel a certain extra effort may be necessary there.  I think I’ve seen one for Swift, and of course I’d be happy to see offerings left as comments here.


Credit for the featured image – a cartoon by Sidney Harris that was published in the New York Times.


  1. He branches off into literary studies. Interesting stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Branches”… such a compliment to a plant person. I like it.
      Favorite rhyme – matching Port William with silly him (and trusting Wendell won’t be offended).


  2. Found this clerihew online:

    Nietzsche thought that all events
    Repeat themselves- which makes no sense.
    Nietzsche thought that all events
    Repeat themselves- which makes no sense.

    And the following are the best I’ve come up with thus far for Jonathan Swift and Lemuel Gulliver. Suggestions or improvements most welcome.

    I wonder when thinking of Swift
    Was Jonathan’s preeminent gift
    The satirical prose of some trips
    To imaginary sites via ships?

    Captain and Doctor L. Gulliver
    Through travels he sought to deliver
    Adventures in places both small
    And gigantic, not least of all


    1. A couple more for Mr. Swift:

      Jonathan Swift from Ireland
      Penned many works quite grand
      His poetry seems so lyrical
      His prose by contrast satirical

      When writing as M. B. Drapier
      Jonathan Swift thought it was queer
      That anyone be on the fence
      Concerning Mr. Wood’s half-pence

      The latter in reference to Jonathan’s pseudonymous Drapier Letters.


  3. I found this by a series of random searches, and it’s a great reminder that I really must write more clerihews. When they go right, as these do, they are as good as any sonnet or villanelle or other posh form. And when they go wrong it doesn’t matter because they can be bad and people think you did it for comic effect. 🙂

    Keep on Clerihewing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed! And I like a limerick for similar reasons.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I find Limericks quite tricky. They lead me on and draw my mind into the gutter.


      2. I’ll agree there are too many examples of limericks headed in an untoward direction. And they can be tricky… but there is something about the meter that catches me. For example – this just off the keyboard:

        Arctic winters are tough said the moose
        It’s why I fly south said the goose
        Oh I’m too heavy to fly
        So I don’t even try
        Said the moose of his oft used excuse


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