You're a poet, you don't know it until you write a deadline limerick
Posted January 17, 2018 1:57 p.m. EST
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- If you haven't been paying attention, allow me to point out a glaring omission in the lineup for this year's Palm Beach Poetry Festival.
The annual event, staged this week at the Crest Theater and Old School Square in Delray Beach, is a six-day schedule of workshops, readings and talks that touch a lot of bases.
For example, there's a contest on "ekphrastic poetry", which is -- OK, I had to look it up -- a poem that focuses on a particular work of art, in which the poet narrates the action depicted in the painting or sculpture.
So, yes, that's covered. But here comes my point.
No limericks. That's right. If "there once was a man from Nantucket," we're not going to hear about him at this week's festival.
I'm a big fan of deadline limericks. It's ripped-from-the-headlines poetry created within moments of a story breaking.
The premier practitioner of this today is the Twitter humor account (at)Limericking from The National Post newspaper in Toronto. The poems there live by the motto, "The news gets verse."
Among (at)Limericking's recent offerings is this gem:
The Oprah-for-president cause
Led some to consider her flaws.
These skeptics then noted
That she has promoted
Fad diets, bad science, and Oz
Or this ...
It's pricier now than it was
So bitcoin has people abuzz,
Though some see a bubble
That promises trouble
and few can explain what it does.
Deadline poetry isn't a new concept. The great American writer Calvin Trillin coined the phrase in 1990 to describe his poetic offerings in The Nation magazine. Some of Trillin's poems have been anthologized into a book titled "Deadline Poet: My Life as a Doggerelist."
Trillin said he was driven to invent deadline poetry as a response to the know-it-all attitude of John Sununu, the chief of staff of then-President George H.W. Bush.
"I'm probably the only poet inspired by John Sununu," Trillin later explained.
Trillin got started by ruminating on the line: "If you knew what Sununu."
"It sounded like a poem to me," Trillin said.
But I'm not writing to complain about the lack of a deadline limerick contest during the Palm Beach Poetry Festival.
I'm here to announce one. We'll just do it here.
The only rules are that you must write an original five-line limerick that follows the familiar form, and that the subject be something that plays off the news.
And it's not really a contest. There are no winners or losers, but if you submit a poem I like, it may be published in a future column of worthy submissions.
If there's a higher honor than that, well, I'm not aware of it.
To prime the pump, I'll start with some of my own.
Another cold front's heading our way. That's a worthy topic for a deadline limerick:
When Florida stops being a sauna
And wool mittens sound like nirvana
You go forth in your jacket
Not sure you can hack it
And look up for a falling iguana
Or you can break off a rhyme about the new Brightline train service.
The new train, it surely is nice
Some folks, they may take it twice.
But when the honeymoon is ended
and higher fares are amended,
success will depend on the price
Or you might feel inspired by the South Florida Fair, which is going on at the fairgrounds now.
I took my new girl to the fair
The roller coasters all night we did dare
But I got hungry and tried
something greasy and fried
And that's when I yacked in her hair
Or perhaps you can rhyme out a tribute to our annual influx of snowbirds. Like this:
To lack bravery is an admission
I make without any contrition
For until it is Easter
you won't see my keister
on a Saturday Costco mission
And, of course, there's plenty of fertile material about President Trump's vocabulary.
Republicans seem intent on their role
Though it surely is taking a toll
For re-imagining Trump's word
Is more than absurd
'Cause "sh—house" is as bad as "sh—hole."
Frank Cerabino writes for The Palm Beach Post. Email: fcerabino(at)pbpost.com.
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