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June 27, 2022

Oort Cloud Oddities: Clerihews

By Alexandra Queen

Teaching me to appreciate poetry is about as productive as hanging clothes out to dry in coastal Florida, but my friend Cheryl keeps trying. Her most recent attempt involved giving me a book called Poetry Out Loud, by Robert Alden Rubin.

The cover of the book suggests that the poems will install awe and delight if read to your romantic partner and
or your children, converting them instantly to the thrills of the spoken word.

I tried it.

My two year old stopped in mid-play, put down her plastic horses and came over to cover my mouth with her hand. "Mommy. No, no, no," she told me very seriously, then went back to her toys. I picked up the book again and was reprimanded with a sharp, "No!"

When I frowned at her and explained that children are not allowed to speak to their mothers that way, she pressed her lips together and silently took the book out of my grasp, carried it into the other room, hid it, and then stomped back to glower wordlessly over her horses.

Reading to my husband, John, was not a lot better. He at least pretended to listen, a fake supportive smile stapled to his face. His eyes kept glazing over, drawn inevitably back toward the news ticker crawling across the bottom of the muted TV screen.

I realized that I was going to have to lose ten pounds and put on a lot more make-up before my poetry reading was going to be able to compete with Hannity and Colmes.

But then I found it. Halfway through the book, Rubin described a form of poetry called the Clerihew, a simple four line poem where the first line is someone's name. Lines 1 and 2 rhyme, as do lines 3 and 4, no restrictions on meter or syllable count.

The Clerihew, I realized, would be just the thing to allow me to read poetry without wanting to pound my head against a wall. It would also let me compete with John's desire to keep current on the latest news. Most of all, I would finally feel like I wasn't letting Cheryl down.

"Hey, sweetie," John greeted me as he came home the next day. "What's new?"

I just gave him a smile and said, "Let me fill you in."

"Paul Hamm
is getting slammed.
Though he and his twin have worked hard and long
Two talented rights don't equal a Yang Tae Wong."

John stared at me. I took that as an encouraging sign and continued.

"Kobe Bryant
No longer needs to be a criminal lawyer's client
The publicity and leaks made the girl feel funny
She'd rather stick to the civil case and go for the money."

As he set down his keys, I went on to cover local news. "This out of Modesto, where a local celebrity postponed plans to go on her second honeymoon in response to a jury summons:

"Carol Channing
is quite unstanning
Like an Average Joe, she goes to court when jury duty calls
Even when it interferes with octogenarian booty calls."

and then:

"Mark Geragos
Scorns where 'Wags' goes
Despite past lives saved, certifications and a definite 'tell',
He doesn't think Search and Rescue dogs can smell."

"What about the election?" my husband challenged, folding his arms and waiting.

I was ready for him.

"Arnold Schwarzenegger
Lent the ambience of a kegger
To the otherwise joy-less, charisma-less RNC
Thinking, 'You're an amendment away from voting for me.'"

followed by:

"John Kerry's
Campaign is hairy.
Did he lie for his medals? How WAS his hide marred?
Did his opponent ditch out of the National Guard?"

"Well," I asked him. "What do you think?" "Not too bad," John said and grabbed my purse. Rummaging around until he found a lipstick, he tossed it at me. "Put some this on and try it again, but pout more this time."

I threw the lipstick back at him and just went with the pouting as I stomped away.

Some people simply don't appreciate poetry.

Comments and Clerihews to Alex.Queen@gmail.com.

This article first appeared in the September 4, 2004 issue of the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin.

Article © Alexandra Queen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2004-10-16
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