Today Fay Roberts makes a welcome return with a short, fun prompt the clerihew. Another one that’s idea for social media so do share and tag @poetrynonstop @fayroberts #poetrynonstop
A Clerihew is a short, humorous, faux-biographical poetry form invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley in around 1901 and I really enjoy using it as a warm-up exercise, or a palate-cleanser between more serious pieces. A classical clerihew, if that’s a phrase we can use, only has two rules. If you’re getting more experimental, there’s only one. Ready?
Rule 1: The first line must be a person’s name, and usually only their name.
Rule 2: The rhyme scheme is AABB.
And that’s it! Four lines of verse, the first of which is a name, the next line rhymes with it, and then the further two rhyme with each other. There’s no meter, no syllable count, and the sillier the rhyme and the more ludicrous the unevenness of the line lengths, the better, arguably. While the poem is described as a “biographical” form, it doesn’t actually have to contain many – if any – actual facts about the subject.
One of Bentley’s own most famous clerihews goes like this:
Sir Christopher Wren
Said, “I am going to dine with some men.
If anyone calls
Say I am designing St. Paul’s.”
So write one clerihew, or write a slew of them. For NaPoWriMo, I usually pick a theme and write along those lines, and one year (2019) I asked people to nominate names. Here’s one of mine from then:
Would always end his handwritten notes with a stickman.
When asked why he would even do this at home he
Would generally mutter something about the venerable clan called Nakatomi
Lean into the ridiculousness, and enjoy writing very silly rhymes!
Fay is a performance poet, musician, storyteller, geek, and accidental voice artist. Ze has a new book – a kind of poetry concept album called Spectral, which has just come out from Burning Eye Books. You can find out more about that and everything else at: linktr.ee/fayroberts
Please share your responses to today’s prompt either in the comments or via email. The best submissions will be featured in future podcasts.
If you’ve enjoyed this podcast please consider showing your support with a donation via ko-fi.com
Books by many of the poets featured on the podcast are available from the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop here. All books purchased via this link help to raise money to keep this podcast going.