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Video:How to Write a Limerick Poem

with Heather Kamins

A limerick poem often takes a comedic tone, and appears commonly in children's literature. Learn about limericks and how to compose your own in this how-to video from About.com.See Transcript

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Transcript:How to Write a Limerick Poem

Hi, I'm Heather Kamins for About.com, and I'm here to talk to you about how to write a limerick.

What is a Limerick?

The limerick is often a comic poem, although the limerick form has occasionally been used for serious subjects as well. It appears a lot in children's literature, although there are some limericks for adults that have decidedly adult content.

Limericks may have been introduced by the Mother Goose Melodies in the 18th century, and they were popularized by other poets like Edward Lear and others after that.

What is the Form of a Limerick?

The limerick is a five-line form. Lines one, two and five all rhyme and share a similar rhythm scheme, and they each have about seven to ten syllables. Lines 3 and 4 also rhyme and share a rhythm scheme, and they have about five to seven syllables.

The limerick uses an anapestic rhythm. An anapest is a type of foot, which is a unit of syllables with a certain pattern of stresses. Da da DA, with the stress on the third syllable. Lines one, two and five use three "feet," and lines three and four each use two "feet."

Here's a famous limerick from Edward Lear from his 1846 Book of Nonsense:

"There was an Old Man with a beard,

Who said, 'It is just as I feared!

Two Owls and a Hen,

Four Larks and a Wren,

Have all built their nests in my beard!"

Where Does the Term "Limerick" Come From?

The limerick takes its name from the town of Limerick in Ireland. However, it's not clear if the form actually originated there. However, limericks are very popular in Limerick today, and each year the town hosts a national championship limerick competition.

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