The bulk of this post is just a bit of fun for the start of the silly season – but the theme happens to coincide with the title of one of classic UK R&B band Manfred Mann’s greatest hits.  The Manfreds as they are now known, are still going strong – still with Paul Jones singing, and original members Tom McGuinness and Mike Hugg in the band – augmented by other musicians including my school-colleague Simon Currie (2nd from left) on sax! They’re probably touring near you somewhere soon – details on their  website.

Which brings me back to 5-4-3-2-1… There’s not enough poetry on this blog, and when it does happen, it tends to be short and flippant – that won’t change in this post I assure you! I just wanted to explore different forms of short poems and share some with you:

Five Line Poems – The Limerick

A well-crafted limerick should make you laugh and trip off the tongue in the proper meter (A-A-B-B-A). Some good word-play always helps too. Here are a few clean faves:

The limerick packs laughs anatomical
Into space that is quite economical.
But the good ones I’ve seen
So seldom are clean
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.    (Anon)

There was a young lady called Wright
Who could travel much faster than light.
She set out one day
In a relative way
And returned on the previous night.    (Anon)

Naturally, that scientific one appeals to me – and apprarently it was Einstein’s favourite too.  Before we leave limericks, we mustn’t forget the ‘anti-limerick’. This one is attributed to W.S.Gilbert and is a parody of Lear.

There was an old man of St. Bees,
Who was stung in the arm by a wasp,
When asked, “Does it hurt?”
He replied, “No, it doesn’t,
I’m so glad that it wasn’t a hornet.

You can find a few more limericks in a post I did ages ago here.

Four Line Poems – The Quatrain

There are different rhyming schemes to the quatrain – A-B-A-B or A-A-B-B or even A-A-A-A. Just to turn serious for a mo, the first is eloquently shown by a verse from Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, and the second in Blake’s The Tyger:

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

Many song lyrics also contain quatrains. Take these verses: The first from Hotel California by the Eagles, the second from A New England by Billy Bragg:

Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes bends
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget.

I saw two shooting stars last night
I wished on them but they were only satellites
Is it wrong to wish on space hardware
I wish, I wish, I wish you’d care.

Three Line Poems – The Haiku

Once upon a lilypad © Larry Ostby http://loswildcritters.blogspot.co.uk/

Basho was one of the masters of this Japanese form. Three lines with 5-7-5 syllables. Usually seasonal or nature based like this famous one of his…

An old silent pond…
A frog jumps into the pond,
splash! Silence again.

I had a go back in autumn 2009 – it was fun …

Autumnal sunshine
Lifts the spirits when reading
Books about vampires.

Early October
screaming girls sing ABBA at
Juliet’s party.

A damp evening,
forty pounds doesn’t go far
at the fair.

Two Line Poems – The Rhyming Couplet

Just a couple of examples for you…

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree. – Joyce Kilmer

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind;
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind. – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare.

One Line Poems – Is there such a thing?

Looking for some quotes, I kept coming up against the argument that most sentences touted as one-line poems are really aphorisms like Hippocrates’ famous one (orig Greek, but always quoted in Latin) Ars longa, vita brevis.  Art is long, life is short.

Uneducated in poetry as I am, I am of the feeling that if it sounds like poetry – why not let it be poetry. However, I think Ogden Nash got it right with the internal rhyming of:

Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker.

If you have any short poems you’d like to share, do leave a comment.
Thank you and good night!

10 thoughts on “5-4-3-2-1…

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    Lovely post Annabel. I should read more poetry than I do – it’s not as if there isn’t plenty lurking on Mount TBR, including Basho and a lovely volume of Russian poetry which was a gift from Youngest Child. And there’s that huge chunkster of the complete Anne Sexton too..

    (And I see from your sidebar you’ve got Concretopia! Jealous! And look forward to hearing what you think of it!)

    • Annabel (gaskella) says:

      Thanks Karen. I really must read more poetry – I’ve just bought a volume of Kate Clanchy’s actually.

      Re Concretopia – isn’t that cover marvelous? I’m loving it already, but taking it at my leisure – so it could be a couple of months before I finish it. I’m from the same area of South London as its author, so I am fascinated from the outset. I’ve also lived in both Harlow and Stevenage so have a lot to say about New Towns!

  2. Denise says:

    My daughter studied Pam Ayres and wrote some limericks as part of her poetry project at school – went down a storm!

    I’d never thought of one or two line poems before, the haiku being the shortest I’d put in that category. I have no technical arguments for this at all, but I feel that three is the beginning of everything. The beginnings of polygons. And a satisfying number of plot strands for a novel. And number of different tastes in a interesting dish.

  3. Jenny @ Reading the End says:

    I am partial to clerihews: Are you familiar? They are four-line mean poems about historical figures, and I cherish them utterly.

    George the Third
    Ought never to have occurred.
    One can only wonder
    At so grotesque a blunder.

    (maybe my favorite)

    • Jenny @ Reading the End says:

      PS which one was George the Third? There were four Georges all in a row, I know, but I absolutely cannot keep them all straight in my mind. Given the unfriendliness of the clerihew I tend to think he was the one who lost the colonies and went mad — is that right?

    • Annabel (gaskella) says:

      Oo Clerihews – I knew there was a four-line form I’d forgotten. I got sidetracked by wanting to include the Billy Bragg quote (my fave song lyric of all time). Thank you for reminding me – off to look some up now. 🙂

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