Adventures in Poetry — Clerihews

There are many different ways to write poetry — free verse, limericks, sonnets, Haiku, etc. I’ve just learned of another — clerihews.

According to Wikipedia, “A clerihew is a whimsical, four-line biographical poem invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley. The first line is the name of the poem’s subject, usually a famous person put in an absurd light, or revealing something unknown or spurious about them. The rhyme scheme is AABB, and the rhymes are often forced.” ( For example —

Sir Christopher Wren
Said, “I am going to dine with some men.
If anyone calls
Say I am designing St. Paul’s.”

If you’re not up on your English history, Sir Christopher Wren did design St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, but that’s another story.

Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956) was a British novelist and humorist who wrote Trent’s Last Case, a 1913 mystery novel which featured a bungling detective, Philip Trent, who would come up with ingenious solutions that would be completely wrong. Think of Trent as the anti-Sherlock Holmes, thus turning the detective story of his time on its head.

Bentley introduced the clerihew in his 1905 book, Biography for Beginners. His first clerihew is listed as —

Sir Humphry Davy
Abominated gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.

Now we’re into chemistry — Sir Humphry Davy was a British chemist and inventor who isolated sodium in 1807 (among other elements).

From this, I am drawing two lessons —

Bad rhymes can still make good poems, and one way to success as a writer is to invent your own form of poetry.

So if you don’t hear from me for awhile, you’ll know what I’m doing.

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