How to Celebrate Limerick Day

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Limerick Day is May 12 honoring the birthday of Edward Lear (1812-1888). Lear, an English artist and writer, popularized the limerick as a poem of fun and nonsense. Use these ideas to travel, read, write, share and gift for Limerick Day.

Visit Limerick, Ireland, the namesake of the poems. Limericks date back over 500 years. They began as nursery rhymes. Bawdy versions soon spread in pubs and taverns. The town of Limerick, with plenty of taverns, drinkers and beggars, was soon mentioned in a refrain, "Will you come up to Limerick?" The moniker stuck to the poetic style. The Irish city was known for decades as Stab City for its violent knife and gang-related crime rate. The city is making strides in revitalization and prefers to be known as Fab City for the benefit of tourists.

Read a book of heritage limericks. Edward Lear wrote his "Book of Nonsense" with 72 limericks. His book published in 1846 became the standard. Lear's short book can be downloaded free from the Internet at Project Gutenberg. The opening limerick is: There was an Old Man with a beard,Who said, "It is just as I feared! --Two Owls and a Hen,Four Larks and a Wren,Have all built their nests in my beard!"

Write a limerick. The form is a 5-line poem in AABBA structure. This means the first two lines rhyme with the fifth line. The third and fourth lines rhyme with each other. The poem has an anapestic beat:A is (da da DUM da da DUM da da DUMA is (da da DUM da da DUM da da DUM)B is (da da DUM da da DUM)B is (da da DUM da da DUM)A ends the poem (da da DUM da da DUM da da DUM)

Share limericks from modern authors like Ogden Nash who wrote: A jolly young fellow from YumaTold an elephant joke to a puma; Now his skeleton lies Beneath hot western skies -The puma had no sense of huma.

Give the gift of poetry to children. Edward Lear wrote his "Book of Nonsense" to share with children. Buy a child's book of limericks. Read them to your favorite child or grandchild. Encourage children to write about a day's event in limerick. There was a young poet they say, who had witty and fun things to say. His name was Ed Lear, use these tips every year, and enjoy his Limerick Day.