Monday, November 26, 2012

I choose clerihews

A clerihew is a light four-line verse with an AABB rhyme pattern that is usually about someone named in the poem. It is named for the man who created and popularized the verse form, British novelist E.C. Bentley, author of Trent's Last Case, among other books. Bentley's full name was Eric Clerihew Bentley. Bentley wrote at least one clerihew about himself:

Edmund Clerihew Bentley
Worked swiftly if not gently,
Tracking murderers down by a hidden clew
In whodunit and clerihew.

Among his most famous verses is this one:

Sir Christopher Wren
Said, "I am going to dine with some men.
If anyone calls
Say I am designing St. Paul's."

Jim Bernhard offers a number of his own clerihews in his book Words Gone Wild. Here are two I particularly enjoy:

A crotchety satirist was Evelyn Waugh
And a dauntless a man as you ever saw.
It's surprising that his best work all
Came after his Decline and Fall.

Bing Crosby
Said, "No matter what his flaws be,
For me it's no prob
To do another picture with Bob."

While reading Humphrey Carpenter's book The Inklings, about the friendship of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams and others, I learned that Tolkien also enjoyed tinkering with clerihews, often with other members of the group as his targets. Here is one of Tolkien's contributions:

The sales of Charles Williams
Leapt up by millions,
When a reviewer surmised
He was only Lewis disguised.

In the mid-1990s, The Atlantic ran a contest to see who could write the best clerihews about people in the news. Among them is the shortest clerihew I have come across:

(To compare)
Makes more money
Than Sonny.

Another winner was this:

Mia and Woody
Debated not would he
Make love to the kiddie
But did he.

Do a search for clerihews to find a lot more on The Atlantic web site.

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