Clerihews and CLE Poets, The Quick & The Dead

I haven't  blogged for awhile because --get this-- I've been trying to get some real writing done. And, this week, I unearthed 18 poems  from my "Half Baked Folder" and worked on revising. Among the cold pancakes, I found a handful of clerihews that I wrote across five days in a month where I stupidly agreed to join CCPL librarian Laurie Kincer in writing a poem a day. I'm not real fond of poems under duress, but I am fond of trying forms, which I don't think of as duress but sort of undress, er, dressing-- window dressing, dressing up, trying on, twirling around, giving it up as too expensive, sometimes finding a deal and buying it.

I came across Clerihews, which I had not yet tried and decided to have a go at a few. The clerihew, which our own Robert Wallace in Writing Poems defines as "a comic form of four lines of irregular length, of which the first line is the name of a famous person....The rhyme scheme is aabb; and part of the fun is rhyming on the proper name, as well as making a pointed comment on the personage." I should add that the form was made up by Edmund Clerihew Bentley when he was a school boy, and many of his strike me as sophomoric, like this:

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

And yet, what I like about this poem is that it's factual-- at least the sodium part. I found in writing them myself that the trick is to state something accurate, specific, and not just a blow-off line for the sake of the rhyme. There is a lot more blahblahblah about clerihews online, especially at the Wikipedia entry, if you want to read more on the form and see more examples by the likes of Auden, Chesterton and others. (Still, all men, so it's time to take it up, dear Wompos).  

Mine tended toward the chatty (which is why I am struggling right now to write a decent haiku), so I really love this example by Paul Curry Steele that Robert Wallace gave:

Zane Grey
Struck pay
Dirt and

Okay, so I have drafted twelve clerihews, all using Cleveland Poets. I keep tweaking them, but here they are for now, in alphabetical order.



                          -- THE QUICK & THE DEAD 

Russell Atkins
won't write about catkins.
but on music and towers,
Cleveland buses and cemetery bowers.

George Bilgere
Presents “Wordplay” on air,
Good kisses printed on pages
And read on Garrison’s stages.

Dianne Borsenik,
Reading, cuts to the quick,
With her red hair, so dashing,
And her metaphors flashing.

John Burroughs
Reads his poems. His brow furrows.
Then he reads awhile,
Breaks out in a smile.

Cy Dostal
Could be hostile.
Till he felt you were a true poet.
Then he let you know it.

John Gabel
Had us all to his table.
He fed us and read us
And in all the Poets League chaos, he led us.

Susan Grimm
Is not a pseudonym.
Her poems “know their way around a knife”
Which is to say they cut strife.

Bob McDonough
Is gonna wanna
Refine this poem
Before he goes home.

Ray McNiece
Says, “I’ll read this piece
In the style of Kerouac.
I tell, you, it’s where it’s at."

Kevin Prufer
Is such a trooper.
His teaching, editing, and poems show such a sharp mind,
And then to boot—he’s kind.

Leonard Trawick
Announced to the crowd, “Say, pick
One of my Suhthun stories or two.
I’ll recite them to you.”

Alberta Turner
After workshops, looked sterner
Till here came her Manhattan with its cherry
And all of a sudden, she grew quite merry.

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