Celebrate National Poetry Month with a friendly competition

Calling all creatives! The Everett Public Library would like to hear you wax poetic about the things we love the most: books, reading, writing, our library, or just libraries in general. Throughout the month of April, aka National Poetry Month, we’ll be asking you to send in your original haiku or limericks with library-related themes. Why haiku and limericks? Because both forms are short and governed by pretty specific rules, so that makes our jobs as judges slightly easier.

If you haven’t had (or wanted) to write poetry since high school, that’s all right – I can help refresh your memory on how it’s done.

Haiku

When writing haiku, poets are restricted to a set number of syllables (or distinct units of sound) in each line. Haiku are made up of three lines: the first line has 5 syllables, the second line has 7, and the third line has 5. These lines do not have to rhyme, and more often than not, they don’t. Just to show you how it’s done, a couple of our librarians gave it a shot:

Turn this page and read—

A new chapter, a new idea.

This book is like Spring.

Reading quietly

Hail pounding on the roof

Glad to be inside

Limericks

For those of you who like a good chuckle, the limerick may be more your style. These short rhyming poems are generally nonsensical, and sometimes a little bit naughty. Because we’re an all-ages establishment, we’re going to ask you to keep your entries family friendly, but we’d still like to see if you can crack our judges up. Here’s the how-to:

Limericks consist of five lines written in what is sometimes referred to as an aabba rhyming scheme, with the punch line of the poem landing on the last line. There is also a distinct skipping pattern that puts emphasis on specific words (many nursery rhymes follow this pattern). Confusing? Thankfully there are some really great teaching tools online that help explain how to write limericks. Also keep in mind that your lines don’t have to follow this pattern exactly; the most important thing is where you place your rhyming words.

The bare bones of a limerick can be broken down into dots and slashes to show where the emphasized words fall (source: Academy of American Poets):

The pattern can be illustrated with dashes denoting weak syllables, and back-slashes for stresses:

1) – / – – / – – /

2) – / – – / – – /

3) – / – – /

4) – / – – /

5) – / – – / – – /

Next you can fill in the dots and slashes with sounds to get a better feel for the rhythm (source: Poetry4kids.com):

da DUM da da DUM da da DUM

da DUM da da DUM da da DUM

da DUM da da DUM

da DUM da da DUM

da DUM da da DUM da da DUM

Finally you get to the fun part. Think of a topic or sets of rhyming words you want to use and see how you can fit them into the framework. To illustrate the aabba rhyming scheme I mentioned earlier, check out how I label my lines. Rhyming words fall at the end of each line, with all (A) lines rhyming with each other, and all (B) lines rhyming with each other.

There once was a trickster librarian (A)

Who delighted in being contrarian (A)

You’d ask for a book (B)

She’d give you a cook (B)

And suddenly you’re eating vegetarian (A)

Please, hold your groans – I never claimed to be a pro! Hopefully you get the point because now I’m asking you to give it a try.

The Competition!

To enter our competition, email your entries to me at llabovitch@everettwa.gov. There is no limit to the number of entries that you can submit. The deadline for submission is April 21st at noon. From there our judges will select their favorites and allow you all to vote for your top pick. The winner of the competition will get to see their poem printed in our newsletter, featured on our electronic sign outside, announced on the A Reading Life blog, and will have the awe and respect of the rest of us poetry novices. Happy writing!

Be sure to visit A Reading Life for more reviews and news of all things happening at the Everett Public Library.

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