So, we’ve all heard them, but since they’re typically meant for children they don’t get discussed much in academia as far as I am aware. But, they’re fun, so why not? I looked into them a bit. They’re usually nursery rhymes, but some limericks are rather lewd (like the infamous “There once was a man from Nantucket” poem, which won’t be finished due to its crudity). They’ve got a rigid rhyme scheme- a/a/b/b/a, and specific stresses— unstressed first syllable, followed by a single stress with two unstressed. Its syllable count per line (always 5 lines) is: 8-8-5-5-8.

Limericks tend to have a narrative, and focus on ridiculousness. Usually, I’ve noticed, they start with “There was (a person) with/from(prominent feature),” and sets up the problem in the second line.

Followed are a few by Edward Lear, from the website:

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!”

There was an Old Man in a tree,
Who was horribly bored by a Bee;
When they said, “Does it buzz?”
He replied, “Yes, it does!
“It’s a regular brute of a Bee!”

There was a Young Lady whose chin,
Resembled the point of a pin:
So she had it made sharp,
And purchased a harp,
And played several tunes with her chin.


I also feel the need to point out that poets such as Lord Tennyson and Rudyard Kipling have limericks. (Though, I wouldn’t put much stock in anything Rudyard Kipling did, considering he was a terrible racist).


Anyway, feel free to try and write a limerick. It could be fun!

Revision Rituals

Hey! So with portfolio time coming up, I have to ask about revisions. Everyone’s got some way they prefer to revise, whether it is all semester or a frantic night before. For some unfortunate reason, I’m most productive between 2 and 4 in the morning, and that’s usually when I revise when not under a time crunch. Otherwise, I spend a few days revising while ignoring other work. I usually look at all my workshop comments and letters before uploading the document on my computer, then spread them around me in a circle so I can pick at them when I need specifics on certain points. I’ve taken to having the original in a window next to the new version, so I can see what has and hasn’t changed. I’m sure everyone does this, but until recently I just copied the original into a fresh document and went from there.

What about you guys?

Also, here is two revision exercises I’ve got over the year:

Print out a copy of your poem and literally cut it apart. Take out anything that isn’t working, rearrange, go nuts.

Cut your poem in half, and make it into two different poems- write a new end for the beginning, a new beginning for the end.

Found Poetry

So Gabi’s post about Google Poetics made me think about found poetry. Found poetry has always been a bit of an enigma to me. Is it lines found and arranged? How much is taken, rearranged, omitted? How much belongs to the poet, how much is sourced out?

It reminds me of blackout and whiteout poetry, but with a touch more set structure. From my own understanding, found poetry can be inspired from a line or two, and generated from a quote surrounding it, such as Carey McHugh’s owl poems. So, here are a few lines/etc from anthropology texts for inspiration:

The Witness Was a Maggot

The Dirty Dozen

The Pathologist’s Garden

Perfecting The Postmortem Clock

Incisor crowns are flat and crown-like

Nonhuman animal

Gross Anatomy of Bones

Surgical Neck


Feel free to use any of these as a jumping off point

On Performing Poetry and Authorial Intent

So, I recently had my senior reading and chose to do poetry. It was pretty cool, if I do say so myself. It got me thinking about the performative aspects of poetry. When reading poetry out loud, it can completely change the poem, something that doesn’t happen in stories or essays. Poetry being read aloud is a very different experience from being read from the page. The poet controls exactly how the reader hears the poem, which brings up the issue of authorial intent. Usually, I hold the belief that authorial intent doesn’t mean anything. If the poet/writer cannot convey what they wish, then they are failing in a sense. It’s fine for readers to get different readings than intended from poems (something I myself often do with other people’s poetry), and since the poet usually isn’t there when a reader reads the poem, they can’t explain the intent. However, in readings/performance, poets can explain what they intended, which can end up stepping on the poem’s freeness and the listener’s interpretation. But when the poet is performing their poem, they often give background information on the poem, what they mean for it to mean, etc. Performing poetry also plays with the form. Not all read-aloud poetry is slam poetry, but people may think so. And by being read aloud, sometimes the messages and emotions may be magnified.

Szirtes, form, and patterns

Generally, I don’t go for standard forms in my poetry. Verse, meter, and stanzas aren’t my thing. Instead, I tend towards making something I personally find visually appealing by playing with white space, while adhering to my own personal standards. George Szirtes says that “Verse is not decoration: it is structural. It is a forming principle and works at depth…Does the female mind, if we can isolate such a thing, abhor patterns?”

I take issue with this.

First off, this question depends on a biologically determinate falsehood, assuming that a “female” mind is routed differently than a “male” brain. It is followed by rattling off a list of traditionally feminine interests (“What of all those quilts, flower schemes, and fancy dances?”) as if to demonstrate that traditional female interests correlate to patterns only in non-literary fashions. The thing is, every single person has a different thought process. There is no single “female mind,” nor is there a “male mind” or a “non-binary mind” for people who don’t conform to the gender binary. Assuming that all women must like flower schemes and abhor writing in sonnets or verse is ridiculous.

Second, people often follow their own rules in writing forms a la free-verse. Depending on my subject matter, my form varies through several patterns I usually ascribe to. Often, if I think my speaker has an inner thought, I’ll indent the line(s) saying that thought, almost like an aside. Line breaks tend to be very important to consider. In last semester’s class, Lytton implored us to consider what we were favoring when breaking lines: the line or the sentence. My line breaks tend to focus either on a double meaning or breaking when a line sounds good based on syllables or word choices. While they may not be readily apparent to readers, these are definite patterns in the writing process.  These are both structural and for decoration.

There are other things in form I tend to use not because of pattern because they both look good and add to how the poem is read. Personally I like using “staircase text,” where the words follow each other down a line break, as it speeds up the poem. Through white space, I also tend to group words that fit together but are separated by different lines. It tends to give people the association and sometimes a different image than just the one stated in text.

So, long story short, I usually use form in my poetry, but more internal form than a classical form.

On being a Poetry Writer vs. a Poet

So, while writing my Poetic Statement, I got to thinking about the differences between being a “poetry writer” and a “poet.” In my mind, there’s a distinction between the two. Being a poetry writer means you can write poetry (and damn well, probably), but you don’t see yourself as mainly a poetry writer. Maybe you also write fiction, or non-fiction.  Meanwhile, being a poet carries a certain connotation that poetry is your bread and butter. Being a poet means that’s your “thing.”


I find it interesting there isn’t really an equivalent to being a poet for fiction or non-fiction. I’m pretty sure Rachel Hall (or was it Kristen Gentry??) uses the term “fictioneers,” but judging by the red squiggle-line under it in my word document, that term isn’t widely-accepted. To get specific titles for those, you have to get more specific, like “novelist” or “biographer” and the likes. So, is it a question of genre? Someone who writes fiction would be called a fiction writer, no matter their specific sub-genre, but once you get into that, labels come out of everywhere. Why is “poet” a universal label for poet-writers who feel comfortable enough with the word? There’s tons of different types of poems, so shouldn’t writer labels correspond to that?

Writer’s Statement and Backstories Behind Poems

Hey guys! What are your thoughts on Writer’s Statements? I just finished mine, and I’m wondering what everyone did. Like, I mainly tried to connect parts of my poetry back to sound, but half the time I wanted to talk about how I’ve changed as a writer or the story behind a poem. Every poem has a story behind it, from “this was a defining point in my life” to “I don’t know, I thought it sounded cool and ran with it.” I tried to keep as much out of my writer’s statement as possible, but a bit did come out about a poem or two. So, this is an open invitation for anyone who just wants to tell the story behind their poem.


(I’m about to put up like three different posts because I have poor time management and I figure if I’m up front with my intentions, it’ll be less bad.)

So Maya was asking about inspiration today and I deftly dodged by giving my favorite word (which was also part of the discussion, but still), mainly because inspiration and motivation are difficult for me. Lately I’ve been “inspired” to write poetry about losing my mother, which I generally do not like to talk about. It’s so much easier to type things out than say them out loud.

In a more general sense, inspiration and motivation tend to shift a lot for me. Lately, it’s been the above reason, but before, my inspiration tended to be little images in my head, sort of like what Jay was talking about. As for motivation, I always think that I can work better under pressure, because that’s when I need stuff done. Motivation to do poetry and inspiration for poetry rarely line up right, though,which is always difficult. Thoughts?

Authorial Intent versus revisions

Alright, it’s 4:30 AM, I’m not sure why I’m awake, let’s do this.


So the question of authorial intent has been plaguing me all semester. I personally prescribe to the “death of the author” ideal—once you put something out there, your intentions really don’t matter. What you intend may be completely lost within the poem itself because you didn’t express yourself clearly enough or a few words had unintentional meanings. I know a few of my poems where no one picked up on what subtext I wanted conveyed. I’m okay with people not getting what I intended, but the question is, how do I move on from there with revisions?


In cases where authorial intent is so far off from what is actually written, is it better to try and make it more explicit in the poem, or go with the direction people got more of a message from? Is it a sign that I should write two different poems, one with the original intent, one with what people thought? Is it a sign I should take a breather and try some different material until something makes itself clearer?


Carey McHugh tackled the issue of authorial intent when she visited us. She said she really didn’t see people getting different views as a problem, as obviously not everyone is going to have the same experiences, and will approach material differently. This is the view I try to take with other people’s work, but can’t seem to apply to myself. Is it a case of sort of “letting go,” acknowledging that how your audience takes your poem is out of your control?

Space from autobiographical poems

Hey, so since it’s the end of the semester I should probably actually start posting. I’ve got a question for you guys: How do you handle poems about specific personal experiences? I’ve had a few ideas rattling around the back of my head for awhile now, and every time I try and put them down, it doesn’t feel like it does justice. I remember an old teacher telling me once that people should sit on their experiences before turning them into poems, since the writer will have more perspective and it isn’t quite as reactionary. There’s also the issue of poking old/still open wounds. How do people write about losing loved ones/bad break-ups/etc. without returning to emotional turmoil?