Clerihew, Haiku, and You

A word fitly spoken
    is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.

–Proverbs 25:11

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A few months ago, James Scott Bell posted Micro Fiction for Your Writer’s Brain on TKZ. It was about writing fiction that was less than 500 words long. (I’ll wait while you go back and review.)

That post gave me an idea for writing about even shorter form fiction, and I came across a few types that are both fun and challenging.

The Clerihew

The clerihew is a form of poetry that was invented by E.C. Bentley, the author of Trent’s Last Case and other novels. Bentley’s full name happens to be Edmund Clerihew Bentley. I guess when you have a middle name like Clerihew, you may as well come up with some clever and inventive use of it.

Here’s the definition of clerihew from Wikipedia:

clerihew (ˈklɛrɪhjuː) is a whimsical, four-line biographical poem of a type invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley. The first line is the name of the poem’s subject, usually a famous person, and the remainder puts the subject in an absurd light or reveals something unknown or spurious about the subject. The rhyme scheme is AABB, and the rhymes are often forced. The line length and metre are irregular. Bentley invented the clerihew in school and then popularized it in books.

Here are a couple of examples:

Sir Humphry Davy
Abominated gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.

Did Descartes
With the thought
“Therefore I’m not”?

Here’s my humble attempt:

Albert Einstein
Had a very great mind
While in his prime
He relativized time

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The Haiku

Back in 2021, Steve Hooley and his sister, Joyce, wrote a wonderful TKZ post on haiku poetry. defines haiku as

a major form of Japanese verse, written in 17 syllables divided into 3 lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, and employing highly evocative allusions and comparisons, often on the subject of nature or one of the seasons.

Here are a couple of rather famous ones:

“A Caterpillar” by Matsuo Basho

A caterpillar,
This deep in fall –
Still not a butterfly.


“A Poppy Blooms” by Katsushika Hokusai

I write, erase, rewrite
Erase again, and then
A poppy blooms.


And another one by me:

Azalea blossoms
Pink, but ragged on the edge
Tomorrow’s lovers

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The Limerick

Here’s what has to say about this poetic form:

Limerick, a popular form of short, humorous verse that is often nonsensical and frequently ribald. It consists of five lines, rhyming aabba, and the dominant metre is anapestic, with two metrical feet in the third and fourth lines and three feet in the others. The origin of the limerick is unknown, but it has been suggested that the name derives from the chorus of an 18th-century Irish soldiers’ song, “Will You Come Up to Limerick?” To this were added impromptu verses crowded with improbable incident and subtle innuendo.


Here’s a non-ribald example.

A tutor who taught on the flute
Tried to teach two tooters to toot.
Said the two to the tutor,
“Is it harder to toot, or
To tutor two tooters to toot?”

Personally, I love limericks. I occasionally compose one in honor of politicians or other strange creatures.  😎 I won’t share any of those, but here’s one I made up just for today:

My computer decided to die
Just as the deadline drew nigh
When the publisher screamed
I knew I was creamed
So I kissed my contract good-bye

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So TKZers: What do you think about these poetic short forms? Pick one or two (or all three) and astound us by entering your work in the comments. Include something in your poem about one of your books if you’re so inclined.

* * *

There once was a pilot named Cassie
An intrepid sleuth was this lassie
She flew into danger,
But it didn’t change her
And she found the murderer fastly.

A 2024 Eric Hoffer Grand Prize Award Finalist

Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleKoboGoogle Play, or Apple Books.

Tag Line Haiku

by Michelle Gagnon

Ah, the tagline…how I love it. For those of you who don’t know, a tagline is that little nugget on a book cover (or movie poster) that serves as a branding slogan, that memorable phrase that persuades you to buy the book (or purchase a ticket to the movie). The following are a few of the most  famous cinematic taglines:

  • “In space, no one can hear you scream.” -Alien
  • “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.” Jaws 2
  • “There can be only be one. -Highlander
  • “One ring to rule them all.” -The Lord of the Rings 
  • “The truth is out there.” – The X-Files 

One thing most people don’t know is that authors rarely get to choose their own taglines. So far, my books have been graced with the taglines, “Anyone can end up in the…BONEYARD,” and “We are our greatest enemy.” (THE GATEKEEPER). My latest release, DON’T TURN AROUND, actually had the tagline changed once some of the top buyers weighed in on it; we ended up with, “Off the grid/On the run” (which I love).

It struck me, as I recently perused the vast array of titles at my favorite independent bookstore, that there’s a game in here somewhere. A way, if you will, to combine two of my favorite things: taglines and haikus. And you’re all invited to participate.

Just so we all understand the rules: a haiku is, according to the standard definition, “A Japanese poem of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five.”

For the sake of simplicity, feel free to combine book tag lines with film tag lines, if they seem to belong together. But make sure to attribute the tags to the appropriate sources.

I’ll be composing my haiku with a nod to some of my favorite titles (I excerpted the first part of the tagline when necessary; feel free to do the same).
Have fun, I can’t wait to see what you all come up with!

Past evil still lives.  
Beauty is only sin deep. 
Everything ends here.  

(Respectively, Heather Graham, THE UNHOLY; Ken Bruen and Jason Starr, SLIDE; and Patrick Lee, DEEP SKY.)

On a side note, if you’ll permit a digression: my publisher is currently giving away galleys of my upcoming release, DON’T TURN AROUND. There are a few different ways to enter, and each only takes a few minutes. 

On Twitter, just retweet this:
@EpicReads Off the grid. On the run. DON’T TURN AROUND by @michelle_gagnon RT for a chance to win!

On Facebook, Like this page.

And/or on Goodreads, Click here to enter.

Feel free to forward to anyone who might want a free book!