Limerick Poetics

Shira Wolosky


A rhetor addressing his fora
Weaves his similes and metaphora
Speaks a chiasmus cross
Taking gain out of loss
And then claims to disclaim oxymora.


The problem with reading a parable
Is the meanings are never declarable;
You are called on to plot
Just what stands for what
Through comparisons not quite comparable.


An ancient form called allegory
Is an inside/out twinned category.
Ideas and emotions
Will act like they’re persons
In detours that highjack the story.


In tragedy heroes advance
From error to dire consequence.
But comedy’s kind;
You can still change your mind
And be granted a last second chance.


In order to write a good ballad
You first need a maid frail and pallid;
Then dramatic portrayal
Of some deep betrayal
In a world that’s half ghostly, half solid.


Italian’s the first kind of sonnet
With an octave that turns at the sestet:
But with rhymes that are few
The English make do
With quatrains that turn round at the couplet.


Sestinas are written in sestets;
Villanelles are constructed of tercets.
But the simple quatrain
Is content with a plain
AB alternate rhyme, or else couplets.


There once was a limerick Fool
Who declared anapestics his rule.
All that jingling and pounding
Would never stop sounding
Like cymbals strapped on a lame mule.


Verse has long praised the ladies from head
To their toes, pedestalled or in bed;
Yet these high-sounding courtships
And grandiose worship’s
Most meant for the ones who are dead.


The first thing we learn how to be
Is like everyone else that we see
So we strive to conform
Till we find our own form
Like a lock that at last finds its key.


Shira Wolosky - headshotShira Wolosky is a Professor of English and American Literature at the Hebrew University. Her books include Emily Dickinson: A Voice of War; Language Mysticism; The Art of Poetry; Feminist Theory Across Disciplines: Feminist Community; The Riddles of Harry Potter; Poetry and Public Discourse, as well as other writings. Her awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, fellowships at the Princeton and Israel Institutes for Advanced Studies, at NYU Law School, and the Drue Heinz Visiting Professorship at Oxford.



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