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Light Verse

October 2015

Everyone seems concerned with losing weight, watching calories and avoiding heavy foods these days. It seems natural that we might want our verse a bit lighter too.

I imagine that many of you also listen or read Garrison Keillor's4 Writers Almanac for a poem to start the day. He has also edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, but he has also published O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic and Profound.2

1The title says it pretty succinctly. Some light verse is lyrical, some vulgar, some pathetic.

Keillor says that when he was in high school an English teacher tried to interest him in "Mr. Frost's guy who stopped in the woods to see snow fall and Mr. Eliot's guy who was not sure whether he should eat a peach" but that didn't work. It was "like serving bran flakes to someone who'd eaten buttermilk pancakes slathered with maple syrup."

Maybe you have read Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear or Ogden Nash or even W.S. Gilbert or, as Keillor has it "the great Anon." Light verse may be an acquired taste, but no one seems to consider it gourmet dining. It's more like acquiring a taste for cotton candy.

There are many notable poets in this genre and many "regular" poets who dabbled in light verse. Even serious Mr. Eliot wrote that book of cat poems that went on to be a long-running Broadway play.

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats ("Old Possum" was Ezra Pound's nickname for him) was Tom's shot at light verse. After Eliot's death, the book was adapted as the basis of the musical Cats by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Keillor's poem, "Cicadas," is a good modern example of this genre.

What is this light poetry, or light verse? I would say that it attempts to be humorous (not the same thing as "funny" as anyone who has ever read an anthology of humor). They are usually brief. They can be on a frivolous or serious subject. You'll want to feature some word play, including puns, adventurous rhyme and alliteration.

There are plenty of anthologies of light verse and the journal Light is a source of new poems. I was delighted to see that one of my online friends, Toby Speed, has the "Poem of the Week" on their site. Hers is a good, terse example of all the "rules" I listed above. Of course, poets of light verse laugh and make puns from rules.

How to Use a Lemon

Squeeze some into tea.
Frizzle off the zest.
Add it to piccata
and pith away the rest.

~ Toby Speed

For more on all our prompts and other things poetic, check out the Poets Online blog.


I've heard that you would like to write a sonnet
except you simply don't know how to do it.
You've got the sonnet bee there in your bonnet
so let me show you now - there's nothing to it.
Most work that's signed Bill Shakespeare won't depart
from A.B.A.B. then C.D.C.D.
Lines numbered nine through twelve stick to the chart
and you might guess the next four start with E.
Yes E.F. E.F. rounds out sonnets' scheme -
three stanzas of four lines in simple rhyme -
and then these twelve are subsequently teamed
with one lone pair (that's GG) ...just in time!
      That's it, I guess...oh yes, and by the way
      It would be nice if you had things to say.

Ilona Grieland


There they are! Watch them!
Buried in their little phones,
Or whatever they call them.
To whom are they speaking?
Better yet, my friend,
Who's really speaking to them?

Clyde L. Borg


The errand spirit (minus the wings)
arrived in a stretch to the chirrup
of zoom and other lens clicks
expressing a desire to inspect
the rest of the town but they
wined and dined in five-star
luxury and all but pinned him
down physically saying the
new building was waiting, your
excellency – which damn near
made him lose his cool – but
he just sighed and said the
windows looked good and
admired the polished wood and
said he would deliver that which
he had come for the next day –
and so it was, and the greeters
committee and all the known
names rivalled for proximity
and – you know how it is, I
don’t need to explain - and
last in, was a guy with a jacket
way too big for his frail frame
and under it no shirt (because he
didn’t have one to his name)
and the people up front were
all embarrassed and aghast
but the errand spirit (minus the
wings) just smiled and said –
You! Come on up here
to the head of the class
and the rest, well
once you get up off bended
knee, try getting up off your ass.

Timea Deinhardt


To the Great God Google all is known,
Every scrap of knowledge honed,
Naught escapes this modern magus
Whose learning incorporates the ages.

If you want to know the what,
The where, the why—the lot,
Just type a letter or a word,
Just a or b, or maybe bird.
Dropping down from out the box
Are many sites, from hats to sox.
You can learn, or browse, or buy,
See what stocks are low or high,
Take a virtual, short vacation,
See who’s having chic relations,
Check on Pliny’s lucubrations
And why he died without salvation.

Everything is there, it seems,
From low to high and in between,
Music, pictures, even poets
All have their pages or their post-its.
All you need is some connection
To this vast, untamed collection
In all the languages of man
Of everything that’s said or been.
No need to ever read a book—
All literature’s on your Nook.
No need to sit in dusty stacks
And hack at knowledge with an axe
When everything observed or known
Is instantly at hand, in car, or home.
Just type or press your thumbs
To grasp the instantaneous crumbs
Of wisdom, numbers, and the rest
Of all that’s concupiscent or blest.
Our memories are outsourced too;
No need to wonder, dwell or brood.
If proms and weddings need a look:
Our whole life’s on Facebook.
And if we want to cook a bisque?
Prop up the phone; there’s no risk.
The menu for all the world’s dishes
Is there online, from steak to fishes.

The ancients had their magi, wizards,
Oracles and chicken gizzards,
Birds, thunder, and other signs
That helped them ponder the divine,
But of the world they knew so little,
A bit here, there, just a tiddle,
So to avert disaster they prayed
To gods prominently displayed
In shrines or temples or in churches—
But often they were left in lurches.

Then Gutenberg tamed the word
So all could read what all had heard,
And soon scribes in all the lands
Began to study that wonder, Man,
Began to ponder the world around—
Catalog, study, the objects found.
Columbus left, and stubbed his toe
On an island none did know;
Men were sailing here, there,
Finding things beyond compare.
Galileo and Copernicus came,
And grand old Newton made a name.
But it was Watt, Fulton, and their ilk
That turned our toil into silk,
That led, inevitably, to Edison,
Jobs, Zuckerberg, and Brin.

So now we’ve reached the end of time
(Some have said), or the end of the line.
Since we have so much knowledge,
Why is it so many live in squallage?
And is it our intent, to boot,
To rob, and pillage, and pollute?
Can The Great God Google still survive
Nine billion humans in a hive?

Robert Miller


The apple blossomed and bees were on the buzz.
The tiny nubbins grew no faster than a baby does.
We counted apples by the pie, the crunch and crisp.
Boughs weighed down by what does not exist –
no apples! Some thief; birds? the neighbor boy?
those watchtower twins promoting heavenly joy?
No footprints, beak-pecks, not the slightest clue.
No core, no seed, no sorry. Could the thief be you?

Taylor Graham


No light verse here
another beer.
He had a fit
no one to hit.
His poor timing
no words rhyming.

Bobbie Townsend


I am old.
So I’ve been told
By magazines and TV commercials
Portraying perfect complexions,
Perfect hair, no bald men here
Perfect, sculpted bodies,
Ready to jog
to save the world
In a cancer run

Am I envious?
You bet I am!

I am naked
So many years ago.
Standing before the army doctor
Who wrote, without a word:
“The 19 year old is fit to serve.”

A quick glance in the mirror now
to register
the wrinkled , blotchy face
The protruding stomach
The breasts I never had
The bald head of Mr. Clean
without the muscles
of a television day

I look around
In the community pool
At the men and woman of my age
And am comforted
In a grotesque way
to be able to say

I may be one of many
Yet not the worst
Among my peers
In this our final stage.

Richard M. Kalfus