DefinitionSome things are deceptively simple. The limerick seems to be one of them. The confusion about "what is a limerick" is easy to clean up. (Limericks themselves, however...)
A limerick is a poem of five lines in what is called anapestic meter (ta ta DA). Lines 1, 2 and 5 have three beats (three DA's); lines 3 and 4 have two beats. Sometimes a "ta" gets dropped here and there. (And we say "ta ta" to the "ta".)
In other words, more or less:
ta DA ta ta DA ta ta DA
Lines 1, 2 and 5 rhyme with each other; lines 3 & 4 rhyme with each other: A, A, B, B, A.
The eminent Mrs. DeVue
TraditionsThere are a few other traditions -- the first line usually introduces a person, the second line sets up some quality about that person, the next two lines describe a situation, and the last line is a punch line. But the pattern is by no means universal.
Another tradition is bawdiness:
The limerick is furtive and mean;
Which explains the perennial popularity of the limerick.
Limericks are usually humorous and disrespectful. Sometimes disrespect for its own form can be used for humor. Example:
I got Grist in My Teeth!
Exercise: LimerickYour mission, should you choose to accept it, is: write a limerick.
Guidelines for critique:Be sure to include in the critique how well the poem fits the form of the limerick; and, if it breaks the form, how well it breaks it.