There Once Was a Limerick Anthology: Lewis Carroll, Robert Frost, Edward Lear, Mark Twain, Carolyn Wells, Woodrow Wilson and Others by Michael Croland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Release Date: August 17, 2022
This little book gathers a diverse collection of about 350 limericks. [Limericks are a five-line poetic form with an aabba rhyme scheme and short -b lines, and are often humorous – or, at least, punny, quirky, or absurd. The form often uses forced rhymes or contorted language as part of the humor, leaning into the genre’s lowbrow image.] For those who’ve read Edward Lear and may be concerned that these limericks will, like much of Lear’s work, lack punch and humor to the modern ear, that’s not the case. The selected limericks include many clever and witty examples that land as well today as ever. [Lest it sound like I’m dissing Lear, I agree with Langford Reed’s limerick included in this edition – i.e. “We should never forget // That we owe him a debt”]
The limericks are grouped by a classification scheme. The book starts with the most common categories — those that feature locations or proper names in the lead line. It has a few chapters that play with language, twisting it about through misspellings or plays on abbreviations. There’s a chapter that is all tongue twisters. Two of the more popular chapters are toward the end. One is a collection of limericks written by famous writers and personalities, such as: Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, and Robert Frost. The other features ribald limericks. For many, ribald and risqué is what comes to mind when one thinks of limericks – e.g. “There once was a young man from Nantucket.” This book aims for a general audience, and – therefore – avoids the edgiest of material, but it’s good that they realized they couldn’t dodge bawdy and raunchy material altogether, and still claim to be an overview of the form.
I enjoyed reading this collection tremendously. With so much public domain content, I thought there might be a lot of limericks that wouldn’t land, but – on the contrary – most were clever and fun. If you’re a fan of the form, this book is definitely worth reading. And it’s part of the Dover Thrift Edition collection, so no doubt you can pick it up for a song.
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