Tuesday, July 10th: There once was a man named Edmund … Today, celebrate CLERIHEW DAY. Today is a day for poets, even if they don’t know it.

This holiday is one dear to my heart. Several years back my dad went through a clerihew phase. I remember getting letters with some of his latest creations. In celebrating the day, it also brings memories of my dad’s literary pursuits to my mind. (Thank you Luther Cline, I love you!)

English journalist and author, Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956), is best known for his popular verse form named in his honor, the clerihew. A clerihew is a whimsical, four-line biographical poem. It consists of two rhymed couplets of unequal length.

According to Wikipedia:

A clerihew has the following properties:

  • It is biographical and usually whimsical, showing the subject from an unusual point of view; it pokes fun at mostly famous people
  • It has four lines of irregular length and metre (for comic effect)
  • The rhyme structure is AABB; the subject matter and wording are often humorously contrived in order to achieve a rhyme, including the use of phrases in Latin, French and other non-English Languages.
  • The first line contains, and may consist solely of, the subject’s name.

Clerihew published three volumes of his own clerihews: Biography for Beginners (1905), published as “edited by E. Clerihew”, More Biography (1929); and Baseless Biography (1939).Wikipedia claims that one of his best known clerihews (from 1905) is:

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

I think my favorite is the winning entry from the 1983 “Do You Clerihew?” contest in Games Magazine:
Did Descartes
With the thought
“Therefore I’m not”?

Clerihew was a sport
To make his poems short
So pick up a pen,
And give it a spin!

Happy Clerihew Day!


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