Wednesday, April 2, 2014

It's National Poetry Month--Give Yourself an Assignment!

Throughout April (National Poetry Month), I'll be posting poetry-themed Wednesday Writing Workouts.

On my own blog, I'll add more poetry writing tips and assorted poetry treats, including giveaways of Write a Poem Step by Step.

Be sure to check out what the other Teaching Authors are working on this month! April is posting daily metaphors, and Laura is writing a riddle haiku every day. For more Poetry Month delights, check out the list of 2014 Kidlitosphere Events on Jama Kim Rattigan's Alphabet Soup Blog. You could start reading the links above and continue for days. Just be sure to come back here on Friday for a special announcement!

For today's workout, give yourself a writing assignment. If you keep writing in the same old forms all the time, try a new one.

How about a limerick? They are silly, lighthearted, and fun. As a challenge, I decided to write one using the name of the place where I live. I first tried to rhyme with "Shorewood," but the stress is on the wrong syllable. Does anything rhyme with "Wisconsin"? I don't think so, but I didn't let that stop me!

(Note that this poem is not autobiographical. I would never do such a thing!)

A traditional limerick typically starts out by naming a person from a place:
  • There was an old man from Seville.
  • There once was a girl from CancĂșn.
To write a limerick, read a few first to get the anapest rhythm in your head: da da DUM da da DUM da da DUM. Lines 1, 2, and 5 each have three anapests (with some variation allowed), and lines 3 and 4 each have two.

Edward Lear made limericks famous. You can read many of his poems and see his accompanying illustrations on the Project Gutenberg site. Or look for a poetry collection in the library--most of the limericks online are vulgar!

One thing that helps is to choose a two-syllable place name with the stress on the second syllable, such as Madrid or Green Bay. Remember that you have to find two words that rhyme with the place name. Brazil might be easier to work with than Detroit. Have fun!

I'll be highlighting a whole slew of forms on this blog and my own web site throughout the month. So after you stop here on Friday (You are stopping here on Friday, right?), visit me there for more poetry fun!

Oh, and feel free to post your limericks here--we'd love to see them!

JoAnn Early Macken


Carmela Martino said...

Great post, JA. I think limericks don't get the attention they deserve! Happy Poetry Month.

Angela said...

Limericks are fun. I'll give it a try for poetry month.

Linda B said...

This is really fun, JoAnn. I told Michelle Barnes that I would write a limerick for her "Limerick Alley" & found it was harder than I thought. Maybe I'll try one soon. Right now I have been writing "new" & trying to learn more about haiku, & what they really are about. I have found I'm rather wordy, so it's a good exercise for me!
Thanks, will look in all your blogs too!

Rosi said...

Back when I was still teaching, I had my students write a Shakespeare limerick to celebrate his birthday. Each limerick had to have a character from one of his plays in the appropriate setting. It was a lot of fun. I am trying to to use a lot of different forms this month. Today I wrote a poem in a form called Butterfly Cinquain. It was fun.

JoAnn Early Macken said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JoAnn Early Macken said...

Thanks, Marti! Angela, good luck with your limerick--I hope you have fun with it! Linda, I think we learn more about writing in general every time we try a new form. Rosi, I've never heard of a butterfly cinquain before--thanks for mentioning it. For readers who haven't seen it either, here is the form:

Line 1: 2 syllables
Line 2: 4 syllables
Line 3: 6 syllables
Line 4: 8 syllables
Line 5: 2 syllables
Line 6: 8 syllables
Line 7: 6 syllables
Line 8: 4 syllables
Line 9: 2 syllables

I suppose you'd have to center the lines. Then the poem would look like a butterfly. Clever idea!

Esther Hershenhorn said...

Thanks, Teach, for this WWW.

There once was a girl from up north
Whose poems she worked hard to put forth
They sang of the world
And all it unfurled.
Her name? JoAnn Mackin of courth.

JoAnn Early Macken said...

Oh, Esther, you cracked me up--thanks for brightening my day!

Sarah H. said...

Jo Ann-
I was delighted that you put the spotlight on limericks--but a little dismayed at your quick dismissal of Detroit, my one-time hometown. So I offer this salute:

There once was a man from Detroit
Whose rhyming was seldom adroit
He said, “I can’t rhyme,
Though I try all the time
And I even use words like ‘Beloit.’ ” 

Sarah H. said...

Sorry--I didn't sign my name!
Sarah Hoban

April Halprin Wayland said...

You're such a clear teacher, JoAnn. Thank you!

The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

There was a young rat, name of Larry
His body was totally hairy,
his best friend, a girl
With the moniker Pearl
said "Larry, your hair is too scary.

JoAnn Early Macken said...

Sarah, nice work! I thought of "adroit" as a rhyme, but it never occurred to me to use another place name. Live and learn!

Pen N. Ink, I especially like the last line with its repeating "air" sounds. Well done!

Jill said...

Love your limerick, JoAnn!

JoAnn Early Macken said...

Thank you, Jill!

My twin sister Judy from Boston sent this response by email:

Snarky Reply

The poet from Shorewood’s twin sis
Saw the fonts and the “nonce” nonsense in Wis.
It inspired a try
At a clever reply
Despite knowing she’d never win this!

(reprinted with permission)

and here's my response:

Writing Is Its Own Reward

Dear Boston identical twin,
my supportive-through-thick-and-thin kin,
don’t see this as vying—
no kidding or lying—
because just by trying, you win!

Jill said...

LOL! You two are both talented AND clever! :)