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Jeff Kyser is a retired software developer who lives with his wife Frances right ‘round the bend in rural Lacey’s Spring, Alabama. A late comer to the world of poetry, he has been writing contemplative and whimsical pieces on family, on redemption, and on faith for the last several years. His eight grandchildren are the source for much of his inspiration, fueling a desire to spur their imagination and to share his life’s journey with them.

Limerick Question

Blog Posted:3/30/2022 4:37:00 PM

So my question is: what is the essence of a limerick?


Some sites will tell you it *must* be 9/9/6/6/9, a rhyme pattern of AABBA, and the following beats:








The Soup lists 7-10 syllables for the A lines, and 5-7 lines for the B lines


A7 would be:



A8 could be






A9 could be






A10 can pretty much only be:




B5 could be:




B6 could be:




and B7 is like A7 above.


But my question remains: what are the essential elements? It seems that it is the main beats:


Dum Dum Dum

Dum Dum Dum

Dum Dum

Dum Dum

Dum Dum Dum


So is this a limerick?


Three blind mice

Don’t look twice.

Black cat

Sees that;

Sure tastes nice! 


Or if the essence is expressed A7, the two ‘da’ beats between each ‘Dum’ beat, then why is a B4 not allowed?








For instance:


Anxiously they crossed the road

Car came fast, it never slowed

I heard a splat

Well, that was that

Man did that frogger explode


That sounds like a limerick to me


For a contest, I guess anything stipulated in the contest is legit, but the limerick essence is what’s interesting to me.



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Date: 4/1/2022 10:49:00 PM
Oh, but to have the ear of the Irish :)) The first line sets the tone (beat) and the rest follow suit. The stressed and unstressed syllables as we know it, do not help us much when we compose a Limerick - you feel the beat and it might be either anapaestic or amphibrachic. But always with strong rhymes: aabba. For these reasons, the lines may vary in length (as stated by PS). Try to listen to poem by Irish poets on YouTube - it will help with your ear for limericks. BTW the punchline is the goal of these poems, and not the meter as such. Happy writing :))
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Suzette Richards
Date: 4/1/2022 11:12:00 PM
There was once a coltish man from Mars Who would not hang around the cheap bars. He came courting the men Scoring a perfect ten, When stemming the rose in Martian ... farce. You will notice that the meter is not spot on, but it delivers the punch in the final line with the final word that follows a pregnant pause ( to bait the audience to complete it with a more off coloured word). Lines 3 & 4 are always presented indended on the written page. Above all: spontaneity is the key.
Date: 3/31/2022 12:44:00 PM
and like Tania says: equal syllable counts lining up for the matching lines, but also equal beat!!! And yes, they need to be humorous or at least light hearted. I've seen them used for tragic topics, and that is pretty weird unless it's dark humor.
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Date: 3/31/2022 12:42:00 PM
JEFF, the ideal is da da dum da da dum da da dum but also taking off the first weak stress and just going da Dum da da dum da da dum is also acceptable. TEN syllables comes into play when you finish with an extra syllable da da dum da da dum da da dum da (this one takes care of special words with an extra syllable on the end). I prefer to hear these versions when I judge limerick contests or read limericks of my peers. I think typically 5-6 is best for the shorter lines 3 and 4. Just my two cents!!
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Andrea Dietrich
Date: 3/31/2022 2:32:00 PM
yes, you got it. It's the meter people miss more than anything else!
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Jeff Kyser
Date: 3/31/2022 1:25:00 PM
Thanks for the feedback, Andrea. I think it is important to convey that (and you probably do, I've not been around that long) in a contest where you're likely to prefer an 8 or 9 over a 7 or 10 for the 'A' lines. I think the stress/beats is what people miss more than syllables.
Date: 3/31/2022 4:13:00 AM
in time must the limerick succumb... to the rhythm of dumb, dumb, dumb dumb...and suffer the curse...of unmetered verse....perfectly straight but a hair out of plumb
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Jeff Kyser
Date: 3/31/2022 1:36:00 PM
perfectly straight, but a hair out of plumb // remove the last ‘b’ and it isn’t so dumb // young horner, his head hung over a pie // pulled out a hair, at least gave it a try // else why was he fishing, I’d like to know why? // Jack’s orientation? The text doesn not say. // These days they’d probably pitch him as gay
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Jeff Kyser
Date: 3/31/2022 1:27:00 PM
gonna have to think about that 'perfectly straight / hair out of plumb' a bit :-)
Date: 3/31/2022 3:51:00 AM
Jeff, A perfect limerick should have good meter to it as well as equal syllable counts in lines 1, 2 and 5 and then 3 and 4. I think a good limerick should also be humorous one. Some people focus more on the sound and meter and not the syllable counts. I learned from the best, Jan Allison and focus on the syllable counts.
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Date: 4/1/2022 1:21:00 PM
aww thanks Tania I am blushing. I'd never written a limerick until I joined soup and started entering Roy Jerden's limerick contests. I now adore the form and I think I have written in excess of 500 . I love the fact they can be witty ribald and I can write about pooping and farting. I agree with Jeff I like the use of double entendre.
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Jeff Kyser
Date: 3/31/2022 3:58:00 AM
I would also add that my favorites are those that have at least a double entendre.
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Jeff Kyser
Date: 3/31/2022 3:57:00 AM
Tania, thanks for your input to the conversation! I have seen many a limerick with "proper" syllable counts, but lousy meter because they use words that do not place the emphasis in the proper location. (for instance, using a spondee when an iamb would have been better, etc.) I would agree that if you nail one of the above patterns with equal lengths for all A lines and for all B lines and it is funny, you have a good limerick.
Date: 3/30/2022 5:16:00 PM
I suppose I am all over the charts, Jeff. I try to make sure I have the same number of syllables in lines 1, 2, and 5, also in lines 3 and 4. Even then, I have found that the sound is not always what I want it to be. To write a perfect limerick is a most difficult proposition. I think most of us do as I do, but, I'm not sure. Thanks.
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