I compiled There Once Was a Limerick Anthology, which will be published by Dover Publications in August, and I largely have my longtime friend and emailing pen pal, Eric Jonas, to thank for fostering my interest in limericks. Readers may recall that my last poetry book, Air to the Throne: A Poetry Chapbook about Air Guitar, also stemmed from my emailing with Eric.
I began sending poems to Eric during my subway commute in 2014, and limericks were his favorites. He encouraged me to keep sending limericks, and he held me to high standards so that my limericks would improve. He wrote some of his own as well. When he visited New York in 2016, we spent a delightful afternoon at Poets House, went through their limerick offerings, and read highlights aloud to each other. These experiences were formative for my budding interest in limericks. After I pitched a limerick anthology to Dover last year, Eric was receptive when I discovered exciting limericks and just had to share them.
In the spirit of limerick humor, the best way to show my appreciation is by collecting ten of Eric’s limericks that lampoon yours truly! All limericks in this post were written by him. Even though these limericks were not intended to be part of a coherent work, he managed to identify me by my three most recent jobs as well as an array of locations where I’ve lived and worked.
When I started sending Eric so-called limericks, most were merely five-line poems with an aabba rhyme scheme. Eric complained that the meter was all over the place. In 2015, he lamented, “You are mangling the limerick form beyond recognition. The number of syllables per line in your limericks varies so wildly.” Eventually, I accepted that he was right and changed my ways. I cringe when I look back at some of my early “limericks.”
There once was a man on a subway Who wrote limericks almost each day The meter he missed Which got me quite pissed But you can’t always have it your way. There once was a man from Scholastic Whose poetry writing was spastic. When I picked a bone Regarding his poems, He thought my restrictions were drastic. There once was a poet from New York For limericks, he was a real dork He knows the meter Thanks to a pleader Who had twisted his arm with great torque
Like many of my poems to Eric, some of Eric’s limericks to me rely heavily on poetic license. Eric penned the first selection in the “Romance” category after I spoke to a woman I was sitting next to at a poetry reading but didn’t flirt back with her. The second refers to how I was in touch with a teacher on JDate in 2010 but never actually met up with her. In 2019, she included me on a group email requesting that I contribute money for her students’ school supplies. I asked Eric if I should respond to say “unsubscribe,” and he suggested I do so in verse. I declined, saying, “Eh, if I send her an original poem written in the second person, she might interpret that as a romantic gesture. I’m a married man, and I can’t do something that might be perceived that way.” Eric responded with a limerick.
There once was a man from the Empire State Who met a young lass who was eager to date. Thought she flirted, alas! The lad was attached So he did not reciprocate. There once was a young lad from Dover Who had an estranged, erstwhile lover He once had the chance To get in her pants But now that he’s hitched, that’s all over!
Presented without Context
There once was a poet from Queens Who took email verse to extremes He couldn’t hold back So he launched an attack On his poor friend’s dog’s shattered dreams. There once was a man in Manhattan Who would not eat goose liver fattened He found a job offer To make books on rockers And knew how to make the thing happen. There once was a man from Astoria Who thought citrus fruits were so glorious He sent some to Neal, But his name was concealed, Causing doc quite a state of aporia! There once was a man from Long Island He loved tartans like those from the Highlands But what he loved more (Though I find it a bore) Are guitars made of air which are silent There once was a man from New York Who wrote limericks loved by dorks. His poetic ambition Was to teach good nutrition And keep junk food off people’s forks.