Cleri–who?

E C Bentley. That’s who. Or more fully, and explicably, Edmund Clerihew Bentley. It’s the middle name I’m thinking about now, and not so much the man as the whimsical, four-line biographical poem named for its inventor. As you can find in Wikipedia the clerihew has an AABB rhyme scheme and an irregular metre. A clerihew is also about a person, usually a historical personage, and tends towards the absurd:

Edward the Confessor
Slept under the dresser.
When that began to pall
He slept in the hall.

I write clerihews occasionally, as a sort of poetic liberation, in much the same way as professional footballers (at least, so I imagine) go and have a kickabout in the park (jumpers for goalposts, etc) on their days off (not that I am a professional poet or anywhere close). There are two things I enjoy about the clerihew form.

First there is the rhyme. I regard rhyme in poetry with suspicion. Not because it is bad or wrong in itself, but because people starting out at poetry get hooked on rhyme and let everything else, from rhythm to sense, go to pot. But a clerihew demands rhyming. As Bentley himself observed, rhyming awkward names is the skillful part.

Second, there is the minor challenge of setting up the scansion of the third and fourth lines. They are irregular, but, echoing. There has to be enough similarity in their metre to make them seem to be from the same family.

So. There I was taking a stroll. I ended up thinking of Nigel Farage (an interesting politician, for readers beyond the UK), in part because he has an interesting name. Now, Farage rhymes with large, but that isn’t very interesting. There was also the possibility of forcing a mispronounciation by rhyming with garage (the British english ‘garage’ pronunciation), but I left that one. I found I had:

Nigel Farage
doesn’t like marge

What next? Well, he puts himself across as a hail-fellow-well-met, down-to-earth chap. I pursued the spreading theme:

Nigel Farage
doesn’t like marge
but a pound of fresh butter
sets his heart all a flutter.

That’ll do.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: