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Explore the Craft of Writing

Light Verse


Clerihew is a type of epigram named for and invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956) when he was a schoolboy; the very first Clerihew was written in science class when apparently his mind was wandering from the subject. The form quickly gained popularity among his fellow students but has later been utilized and published by such recognized poets W. H. Auden. The Clerihew mocks the famous and those in authority through a humorous perspective. It is often deliberately clumsy and could be put in the burlesque genre.


The Clerihew is:

  • satirical poetry, an epigram.
  • often metered, written in iambic dimeter, but can be expanded using the rhythm of normal speech.
  • a single quatrain.
  • a mocking epigram of someone (usually famous or in authority) The first line is the title and the name of a person whom the epigram will mock.
  • rhymed, rhyme scheme aabb.
    Sir Humphrey Davy

    Detested gravy

    He lived in the odium

    Of having discovered sodium.

    --- E Clerihew Bentley

    The King of Pop, they call him Michael,

    nose, chin and skin, he chose to recycle.

    Genius with drive from the Jackson Five,

    he's a Thriller, dancing on toes and singing jive.

    ~ ~ Judi Van Gorder

    Royal, Kate Middleton

    Stripped to catch some sun.

    Neglectful, she forgot to hide

    As her crown assets slipped outside

    - - - Frank Gibbard

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