Posted by: jockmackenzie | March 11, 2010

Poetry & Song – Entry 10 – The Limerick #2

Thanks to Wikipedia for the photos

The term “limerick” is generally thought to refer to the city or the county of Limerick, Ireland. The limerick form was popularized by Edward Lear in his first Book of Nonsense (1845). Wikipedia tells us, “It was customary at the time for limericks to accompany an absurd illustration of the same subject, and for the final line of the limerick to be a kind of conclusion, usually a variant of the first line ending in the same word.”

The following is an excerpt from my yet-unpublished book Poetry and Song

I like my students to see, in their mind’s eyes, a picture of what it is we are working on. As soon as I have whetted their appetites with a few limericks, I will show them a picture of a limerick – and I tell them that a picture is on its way.

My starting limericks:

It’s not humble but it’s not humdrum either.

There once was a teacher, Mackenzie

Whose classes were really a frenzy

His students grew wise

In front of his eyes

Other teachers all envy Mackenzie.

(This one works best when said with a smile.)


There once was a large language class

Who gave their poor teach lots of sass

He said, “It’s okay

To treat me that way.

I guess that this class has no class.”

And then a student-written winner from a previous year’s “Annual Limerick Contest”

This one is by Shelagh Flanagan

There once was a boy from Bombay

Each day to a new girl he’d say,

“I really love you.

Do you love me too?”

And the girls always answered, “NO WAY!”

As soon as one brings up the subject of “The Limerick”, one must be prepared for students – especially those who we assume are not in the least poetic – to start mumbling in the back of the class as they recite off-color limericks. The word Nantucket leaps to mind.

My approach has always been to meet the monster head on. I acknowledge that the limerick has a reputation for bawdy humor (another mini-lesson on vocabulary/euphemisms usually follows) but that students must remember a caveat (see aforementioned mini-lesson) that I announced at the beginning of the year. In my classes, I announce early on that bathroom humor and excessive violence will not be accepted.

I am not sure that “not accepting” off-color limericks means that the students don’t share them – but, at least, they don’t share them out loud.

Next entry – The Picture of a Limerick



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