You’re a poet, you don’t know it until you write a deadline limerick


If you haven’t been paying attention, allow me to point out a glaring omission in the lineup for this year’s Palm Beach Poetry Festival.

The annual event, staged this week at the Crest Theater and Old School Square in Delray Beach, is a six-day schedule of workshops, readings and talks that touch a lot of bases.

For example, there’s a contest on “ekphrastic poetry”, which is — OK, I had to look it up — a poem that focuses on a particular work of art, in which the poet narrates the action depicted in the painting or sculpture.

So, yes, that’s covered. But here comes my point.

No limericks. That’s right. If “there once was a man from Nantucket,” we’re not going to hear about him at this week’s festival.

I’m a big fan of deadline limericks. It’s ripped-from-the-headlines poetry created within moments of a story breaking.

The premier practitioner of this today is the Twitter humor account @Limericking from The National Post newspaper in Toronto. The poems there live by the motto, “The news gets verse.”

Among @Limericking’s recent offerings is this gem:

The Oprah-for-president cause

Led some to consider her flaws.

These skeptics then noted

That she has promoted

Fad diets, bad science, and Oz

Or this …

It’s pricier now than it was

So bitcoin has people abuzz,

Though some see a bubble

That promises trouble

& few can explain what it does.

Deadline poetry isn’t a new concept. The great American writer, Calvin Trillin, coined the phrase in 1990 to describe his poetic offerings in The Nation magazine. Some of Trillin’s poems have been anthologized into a book titled “Deadline Poet: My Life as a Doggerelist.”

Trillin said he was driven to invent deadline poetry as a response to the know-it-all attitude of John Sununu, the chief of staff of then-President George H.W. Bush.

“I’m probably the only poet inspired by John Sununu,” Trillin later explained.

Trillin got started by ruminating on the line: “If you knew what Sununu.”

“It sounded like a poem to me,” Trillin said.

But I’m not writing to complain about the lack of a deadline limerick contest during the Palm Beach Poetry Festival.

I’m here to announce one. We’ll just do it here.

The only rules are that you must write an original five-line limerick that follows the familiar form, and that the subject be something that plays off the news.

And it’s not really a contest. There are no winners or losers, but if you submit a poem I like, it may be published in a future column of worthy submissions.

If there’s a higher honor than that, well, I’m not aware of it.

To prime the pump, I’ll start with some of my own.

Another cold front’s heading our way. That’s a worthy topic for a deadline limerick:

When Florida stops being a sauna

And wool mittens sound like nirvana

You go forth in your jacket

Not sure you can hack it

And look up for a falling iguana

Or you can break off a rhyme about the new Brightline train service.

The new train, it surely is nice

Some folks, they may take it twice.

But when the honeymoon is ended

and higher fares are amended, 

success will depend on the price

Or you might feel inspired by the South Florida Fair, which is going on at the fairgrounds now.

I took my new girl to the fair

The roller coasters all night we did dare

But I got hungry and tried

something greasy and fried

And that’s when I yacked in her hair 

Or perhaps you can rhyme out a tribute to our annual influx of snowbirds. Like this:

To lack bravery is an admission

I make without any contrition

For until it is Easter

you won’t see my keister

on a Saturday Costco mission

And, of course, there’s plenty of fertile material about President Trump’s vocabulary.

Republicans seem intent on their role

Though it surely is taking a toll

For re-imagining Trump’s word 

Is more than absurd

‘Cause “sh—house” is as bad as “sh—hole.”



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