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I started writing my little light verse poems while waiting in airports, grocery store parking lots, and in the carpool lines while waiting to pick up my son at school. Instead of working on crossword puzzles, I started doodling with word play, turning clever little ideas into rhyme.
After composing several dozen little ditties, I sent a few out to see if they'd stick. They did. My early attempts at light verse began appearing in newspapers and magazines: The Saturday Evening Post, The Wall Street Journal, Good Housekeeping, The New Yorker, and McCall's Magazine.
Tribute Media Services picked them up and I began writing a daily syndicated column of light verse called Snickers. A publisher picked out a hundred of his favourites and published a book of them, The Best of Snickers.
Over the years, I've written thousands of light verse poems and I'm still surprised at what I learn from each new one I write. They never cease to amaze me. It is not surprising then that one of the most important elements of a light verse poem is that it contains a surprise. That surprise usually arrives at the end of the poem.
Because it relies on humour, a light verse poem is more like writing a joke than writing a poem. I often think of the last line first and work backwards. After writing the last line, I then work on the set-up, the first three lines that give the punch line its punch. I often like to take serious subjects and show their lighter side.
To keep your gun under control
I write most of my light verse poems in the four-line ballad stanza format with the second and fourth lines rhyming and with iambic rhythm throughout. The first and third lines contain eight syllables (tetrameter) and the second and fourth lines contain six syllables (trimeter).
The Cold Facts
"Virus" is a Latin word
You know you're into middle-age
Most accidents occur at home,
There's nothing like a game of chess.
Writing light verse is a lot of fun and a great practice for writing others kinds of verse. Light verse contains many of the same elements that any successful poem contains. It is understated, concise, and pithy. It requires that the writer say a lot in a few words.
T. S. Eliot
Eliot was under the delusion
Lady Godiva wore no dresses
The water lilies of Monet
Some light verse poems make use of longer patterns.
Musery Loves Company
Poets mustn't smile.
So if a solemn poet
Probably the most popular of all light verse forms is the limerick, the five-line poem whose rhyme scheme is a-a-b-b-a and whose rhythm is anapestic. Its meter is trimeter, trimeter, dimeter, dimeter, trimeter. Subjects of the limerick can range from the bawdy to the inane. They are often the first light verse poems we hear as kids. Children on the sidewalk and in the schoolyard like to secretly recite them. Endless anthologies of limericks fill the libraries and bookstores. Most of them are written by Anonymous. I will spare you here any examples of mine. Examples by Anonymous will suffice.
The market for light verse is vast and varied. Magazines like Reader's Digest and The Saturday Evening Post regularly publish humorous verse. Book publishers like Meadowbrook Press publish little anthologies full of light verse. For those with a droller, highbrow take on the lighter side of verse, there is the magazine Light: A Quarterly of Light Verse. Submissions are welcomed.
Have fun lighting up the world with your light verse. Remember to include a surprise for me.
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