Five [More] City Limericks

There was a worker from Detroit
who — in his job — was quite adroit.
They said he had powers —
a thousand nuts an hour,
but it’s not like he could enjoy’t.


There was an old woman of Singapore
who was fit as a fiddle but quite poor.
Her legs, they were stout
from lugging about
fixings to sell chicken-rice door-to-door.


There was a businessman from Osaka
who flew in (for safari) to Lusaka.
Walking the savanna
he slipped on a banana,
and was lost in an elephantine ca-ca.


There was a bad boy from Budapest
who wanted to behave his very best.
No more driving drunk —
a corpse in the trunk.
Being good was harder than he’d guessed.


There was a young woman from Cancun
who knew all the phases of the moon.
She worked a nightclub,
slinging drinks and grub —
because the mid-day sun made her swoon.


First installment:

Five City Limericks

There was a buxom lass of London
who was perpetually undone —
her plotting, it flopped —
her buttons, they popped.
She was undone in more ways than one.

There once was a man from New York
who would only eat using a fork.
You’d think soup his ruin,
but ’twasn’t his undoin’ —
he starved over a giant slab of pork.

There was a young gal from Tokyo
who used her umbrella in the snow.
‘Twas structurally sound,
and held eighty pounds.
huge biceps had that buff girl of Tokyo.

There was a young man of New Delhi
who thought himself the new Machiavelli.
He said, “Make them fear,
or you’ll see them sneer!”
…’twere not for his knees made of jelly.

There was a salesman from Nairobi
whose mind trick was like Ben Kenobi’s —
or so he did think,
but — despite psychic link —
he couldn’t sell even one Flowbee.

BOOK REVIEW: Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear

A Book of NonsenseA Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars page


This is a collection of over one-hundred limericks by Edward Lear published in 1846. Limericks are a popular five-line poetic form with an A – A – B – B – A rhyme scheme, and in which the B-lines are shorter than the A-lines. Two types of material leap to mind when one thinks of limericks: humor and bawdiness. I mention this because neither of these subjects feature prominently in Lear’s limericks. While a number of the poems could be described as amusing, I can’t say I found any of them laugh-out-loud funny. I suspect that the number that are found amusing would be larger for a reader from the early 19th century due to insider knowledge that escapes the present-day reader (i.e. the activities and the perception of people from various locales have changed considerably over the years.)

As the book’s title suggests, what is on display in these limericks is nonsense. While that reads like an insult, Lear is considered to be one of the founders of the genre of literary nonsense. It’s not nonsense in the sense of Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” in which fictitious words are blended with real words to create a synthesis that is grammatically logical but relies on the reader’s imagination to create any meaning. Rather, the events and reactions on display in the poems range from absurd to impossible, but the meaning can be interpreted. As with the poems of a later nonsense poet of renown, Ogden Nash, some of the whimsy of these poems derives from contortionistic acts of mispronunciation needed to square the rhyme (though I may be overstating this as I don’t know how much Lear’s British accent from almost 200 years ago would differ from the way I read with my 2020 American accent.)

Needless, to say this is a really quick read. Most editions are between 30 and 60 pages long, with all the white-space one would expect of a book of five-line poems. If you are interested in Limericks or poetic forms in general, it’s worthwhile to see how Lear writes them. It’s a big help in developing an ear for the flow of the limerick. I found the book to be a pleasant read, though some of the limericks are cleverer than others. Some left me thinking that Lear could have done much more with the poems. Often the last line is a minor variation of the first line, and, thus, neither serves as a punchline nor as a source of new information. That sometimes felt like a missed opportunity. Still, it’s a nice collection of nonsense limericks.

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