5 Tips for Writing a Clerihew

Is there a celebrity or other famous person who really gets on your nerves? Have you ever wished that you could tell someone what exactly it is that bugs you? Well, now you can join some of our other poets by writing a clerihew — the best way to (poetically) insult someone.

  1. Mr. Clerihew, who are you? Edmund Clerihew Bentley, a 20th century humorist and novelist, invented the clerihew form. He wanted to make fun of certain famous people, and decided that there’s no better way to do so than with poetry—and with laughs!
  2. A biography that’s actually fun to read. Because you get to write it. Clerihews are essentially short, humorous biographies about people who are well-known, like celebrities or historical figures. Starting with their full name, you pick the subject and information about them you’d like to include in the poem. Their name is either solely the first line, or within the first line of the poem. After that, there are only three more lines to go.
  3. Time to rhyme. Clerihews follow an AABB rhyme scheme, which means that the first and second lines should rhyme with one another, and so should the third and fourth lines. For this type of poem, there are no rules about line length, because it is more successful when it has a bouncy, yet jagged vibe.
  4.  Not a lie, just an exaggeration. The trick to writing a clerihew is to include true facts about the subject, but to arrange them in a way that makes the poem comical. One way to do this is to take two events that occurred far apart from one another and write about them as if they took place one right after the other. For example, “she gave him life / he got a wife” are two lines with statements that may be true about a person, but they didn’t happen that quickly.
  5. Time to vent. One of the reasons why the clerihew is such a fun type of poem to read and write is because they’re so short- a lot like knock-knock jokes-and they make fun of people everyone knows. Take a stab a writing one, or a whole collection, then share them with your friends and post them on PowerPoetry.org. Who are you going to make fun of?

Sir Humphrey Davy
Edmund Clerihew Bentley

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

Kenn Nesbitt

Their music hurts my ears.
I much prefer Britney Spears.

George the Third
Edmund Clerihew Bentley

George the Third
Ought never to have occurred.
One can only wonder
At so grotesque a blunder.


Related Poems

Create a poem about this topic