Who has Earned a Clerihew – You?

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http://www.fridaymash.com/regions/australian-political-satire

Yesterday, instead of writing this blog I became absorbed watching the Australian Prime Ministership change – political junkie that I am!  Although I offer no apology because the politicians who are in power affect us all.

What writer doesn’t like drama even if this one was inevitable – Abbott and Turnbull have battled before. The Australian public knew spite, ego and ambition would all lead to the same inevitable result! As witty and jaded commentators observe “same shit just different shovel’.

However, the way the media hyperventilated and protracted the drama built the tension and kept us hooked, even if clichés and hyperbole abounded. No doubt it will all be replayed ad nauseam so budding journalists can deconstruct and choose the best coverage and pick out the gems – and there are always gems amongst the dross.

Wordsmiths can be inspired and write clerihews to immortalise the leading protagonists and antagonists and their supporters. I discovered this form of terse verse several years ago when I had poetry published in Yellow Moon magazine.

A clerihew is ‘a humorous pseudo-biographical quatrain, rhymed as two couplets, with lines of uneven length more or less in the rhythm of prose. The name of the subject who is well-known is usually at the end of the first line (sometimes the second line).

The humour of the clerihew is whimsical and absurd rather than satiric or abusive, but they target famous individuals or ones in the public eye. Politicians, as well as celebrities, are obviously fair game. You don’t have to limit your clerihews to real people. Write about characters from books, musicians, movie stars, comic and cartoon creations.

Clerihews are short, easy to write and can be about any person or character, real or not – even about animals. Remember to put the subject’s name at the end of the first line and rhyme it at the end of the second line. Then write two more rhyming lines to make it funny, absurd and memorable!

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Edmund Clerihew Bentley invented the form in school, the rhyme scheme AABB, often forced and irregular. A couple of his best-known being:

Sir Christopher Wren
Said, “I am going to dine with some men.
If anyone calls
Say I am designing St. Paul’s.

Sir Humphrey Davy
Abominated gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.

 (This one about his chemistry teacher>)

According to a letter in the Spectator in the 1960s, Bentley said that a true clerihew has to have the name “at the end of the first line”. The whole point being the skill in rhyming awkward names.

I tried to write a couple of poems about the squabbling pair last night but found it difficult to be whimsical. (It was a long night too and I’m not sure the couple of ciders I drank helped or hindered creativity.)

Unfortunately, when I think of national politics and how it is referred to as “the Canberra Games” whimsy is not the first word that springs to mind!

Our PM likes to be called Tony
This casualness quite phoney
His equality claims
Produced knights and dames!

Malcolm Turnbull no fool
Knows women drool
Prime Ministerial ambition ditched
But now mission accomplished

PM Tony Abbott
Made lying a habit
Loved riding his bike
His party’s now said, ‘take a hike’

Prime Minister Abbott
Made Captain Picks a habit
Loved photo opps wearing a bomber jacket
Tony’s found ‘shit happens’ now he’s sacket

Egotistical Malcolm Turnbull
Knows ‘the old school tie’ rule
Promising power to Julie Bishop
He found her an easy pick up

Poor Tony Abbott
Now stewed like a rabbit
Friendship with Bronwyn Bishop
A helicopter flight a grounding mishap

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop
Always looks quite a dish up
Overseas trips her desire
Setting ambassadors’ hearts on fire

Let’s hope Bishops and Abbotts
Don’t breed like rabbits
Malcolm’s skin is steel wool
And his promises not bull….

Perhaps I’ll stick to Hollywood characters after all Australian politics often seem a B-grade movie. This was an oldie:

Hollywood is Mel Gibson’s home
Where many Aussies roam
Mad Max and Braveheart Mel’s winning streak
Pity his true character is so bleak

The Oxford Complete Wordfinder describes a clerihew as a short comic or nonsensical verse, usually in two rhyming couplets with lines of unequal length and referring to a famous person…

I’ll just keep trying and look at it as another form of poetry that allows me to indulge what I love most – playing with words. Like Limericks and Haiku inspiration is all around and with a pen and paper it certainly fills in time spent travelling on public transport or sitting in waiting rooms.

There is 24hour media coverage all over the globe and we live in a time of celebrity culture – perhaps the clerihew will make a comeback in popularity!

9 thoughts on “Who has Earned a Clerihew – You?

  1. Hi Mairi
    I’m now inspired to pen a ‘Clerihew’
    Not a plethora, in fact only very few
    Mostly humorous as you might have guessed
    With some dismal ones should I become depressed

    …Tuesday workshop evening was good fun, beautifully run by Glenys in your absence

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    1. Great you are inspired Steve – sorry I’ve taken so long to respond, but Internet connections in Samoa were spasmodic to say the least. However, it was a great place to have R & R and forget about the grindstone for a while:) Love your verse – keep them coming – I’m sure the Aussie political scene will see to that!

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  2. So true, Mairi. ‘Same shit just different shovel’. It reminded me that Mickey once wrote a limerick about George Bush senior,
    Mr Bush is not just a wimp
    With policies starting to limp.
    He is also an ass
    Who is so full of gas
    He could fill and manoeuvre a blimp.

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  3. Nothing’s wrong with your political whimsy Ms Neil
    You’ve put on it your inevitable seal
    At taking the mickey out of Abbot the Tony
    To that I’ll gladly drink a ‘pony.’
    FROM ME

    Abbot’s ruled for just a while
    Lying seemed to be his style
    Now in his place another rules
    Why are we beset by fools?
    AND FROM ROY

    A first for us both! (I know…it looks like it!) 🙂

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      1. Well, we would both agree that politics is too important to be whimsical about. Perhaps part of our country’s problem is what David Foster Wallace warned about, that being snarky about politics could be entertaining but is also a symptom of despair.

        Liked by 1 person

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