Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan on April 16, 1972 · Page 129
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Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan · Page 129

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Detroit, Michigan
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Sunday, April 16, 1972
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Page 129
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Amiiiirbom)tfiiniF Detroit agarine s Last ig:an Limerick Contest All-Mich No matter how grouchy you 're feeling You'll find that a limerick is healing; It grows in a wreath All around the front teeth, Thus preserving the face from congealing. By MICHAEL MAIDENBERG Free Press Staff Writer "Hardly an educated man is now alive who does not treasure in his memory at least one limerick, proper or improper," writes the distinguished critic William S. Baring-Gould in "The Lure of the Limerick: An Uninhibited History." "The chances are that he did not read it in a book or magazine. Rather he acquired it by hearsay: It was passed on to him by word of mouth, by 'oral tradition.' As such, the limerick is authentic folklore a vital part of our heritage." Well, friends, how about it? If you have often felt like contributing to our heritage but never quite knew how, this may be your chance. Detroit magazine is sponsoring the Last All-Michigan Limerick Contest. If you pen an immortal limerick, it will be handed down through the ages. Not only that, but you will win the coveted Joseph L. Parkhurst Cup more about that later. There are some ground rules, of course. To begin with, the limerick must be printable in Detroit magazine. As has been observed: The Limerick is furtive and mean; You must keep her in close quarantine. Or she sneaks to the slums And promptly becomes Disorderly, drunk and obscene. The second rule is that it must have something to do with Michigan. Baring-Gould observes that geographical limericks are "by far the largest class," and with the wealth of Michigan place names, this should pose no problem. By definition, a limerick must follow a certain form, technically an a-a-b-b-a rhyme scheme in anapestic meter. Or think of it as da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da. Or remember this one: There once was a man of Calcutta Who spoke with a terrible stutter At breakfast he said, Give me b-b-b-bread And b-b-b-b-b-b-butter. "The best limericks," Baring-Gould writes, "should satisfy us by their unexpected solutions to rhythmic problems, and they should delight us with a surprise ending." He traces the limerick back to Aristophanes, a Greek who lived between 448 and 380 B.C. It appears again in early English and Irish literature, and apparently Shakespeare knew the form. The "founding father" of the limerick is Edward Lear, an Englishman who lived between 1812 and 1888, and who wrote 2 12 limericks in addition to marvels such as "The Pobble Who Has No Toes." Lear, it turns out, had no idea that the form with which he is identified would become so popular. The late Bennett Cerf wrote: "Lear boarded a steamer and fled to Greece to escape the plague of limericks he had started." Lear's limericks seem oddly tame in light of the wild rhymes and puns which have been used. But his have a dry, nutty flavor all their own: There was a young lady from Norway Who casually sat in a doorway; When the door squashed her flat She exclaimed: "What of that?" That courageous young lady of Norway. It is believed that Lear was referring to the nation of Norway, not Norway, Michigan, a hamlet in Dickinson County in the Upper Peninsula. There is some precedent for limerick contests, too. A great limerick rage swept over London in 1907 and 1908, with newspapers vying with each other to sponsor limerick contests. The British did theirs a little differently than ours. They gave the first four lines of the limerick and asked readers to fill in the last. (They also offered a cash reward: 50 pounds, or about $250' at that time.) One contest received a record 700,000 entries, Baring-Gould reports. The first four lines went: There was a young lady of Ryde Whose locks were considerably dyed. The hue of her hair Made everyone stare . . . The winning line was: "She's piebald, she'll die bald!" they cried. To give you an idea of your competition, at least for the rewards of posterity, here are some immortals: There was a young girl of Old Natchez Whose garments were always in patches: When comments arose On the state of her clothes. She drawled, "When Ah itchez, Ah scratchez." Ogden Nash There once was an old Man of Lyme Who married three wives at a time; When asked, 'Why a third?" He replied, "One's absurd, And bigamy, sir, is a crime!" William Cosmo Morhouse There was a young lady of Crete, Who was so exceedingly neat When she got out of bed She stood on her head To make sure of not soiling her feet. Anonymous There are even a couple that apply to Michigan. One by Morris Bishop: An inventive young man in Monroe Built a weather-conditioned chateau. By his technical blunders The dining room thunders And the bathrooms incessantly snow. And another by the founding father himself: There was a young lady of Clare Who was hotly pursued by a bear. When she found she was tired She abruptly expired, That unfortunate lady of Clare. Ed The Grand Prize ", J - ;it M mi: . fcz -n'iiriiiiiiiiriiiiiitiiiaiiiMTiTititi;'irtef-'- - - t rfSiii iiwiiiiiiA Ln JfciJ n n Vi n'a Viimmii immiiiir i nun' '" - -- The Rules They are stunningly simple: 1. Write down your limerick. We won't be terribly picky about it adhering to strict metrical form. But it's gotta be close. 2. Make sure it mentions a place in Michigan. 3. Put it in an envelope. Put a stamp on the envelope. 4. Address it to: Last All-Michigan Limerick Contest, Detroit Magazine, Detroit Free Press, 321 W. Lafayette Detroit, Michigan 4823,1. 5. Entries postmarked after May 1st will be ruthlessly disregarded. 6. And this is most important: Keep 'em clean. Detroit Free Press, April 16, 1972 The Joseph L. Parkhurst Cup J The Parkhurst Legacy We were sitting around the cluttered offices of Detroit magazine not too long ago, trying to dream up a really crowd-pleasing contest The problem, of course, is that all the standards have been done already: Best hamburger, best pizza, a double-accrostic, most ugly Detroit buildings, even. Nothing came to mind, and we really felt blah until ... the fateful day when the first letter from good old Joseph L Parkhurst arrived in the mail. There was a single sheet of paper inside, asking the fateful question: "Could I interest you in a limerick?" A limerick was enclosed. The next day, another neat white envelope. Another limerick. And so on for (sigh) many months. Limericks. Maybe three dozen of 'em. AH unsolicited. Naturally, we got to wondering about good old Joseph L Parkhurst So pondering how he managed to latch on to our vibrations all the way out there in Rahway, New Jersey where he drops his limericks into the mailbox we wrote him a letter. Who are you, Joseph L Parkhurst? we inquired. We received the following replies. The mystery persists: Why limericks? Because you don't have to plod. You c an read half a dozen of them in a matter of seconds. And it suddenly occurred to me, .after having been at it for a year or jo, that my limericks might be of some use to the ecologists and environmentalists. I chose Michigan because of its many challenging place-names. One could toil in this labyrinth for months, and' hardly scratch the surface. Other efforts to communicate with Mr. Parkhurst have proved futile. But (as you shall read below) he proved that it can be done you can write a bouncy little limerick about a place in Alichigan (and even pack it with an ecological punch, to boot). So, in honor of this grand old . . . young? . . . middle-aged? . . . gentleman? ... we have decided to dedicate our award in his honor. The winner will be given this stunning cup (see left) at gala award ceremonies it May at the American (choke) Coney Island. This week's cover: 3-D assemblage by David Savage. A Gallery of Pavhhurstian Limericks A fellow who stopped in Tuscola Reached over and cranked the Vic-trola While sipping a malted His mind nearly vaulted A lifetime. It played Amapola. There once was a woman from Inkster Who behaved as if air currents jinxed her. In a statement pursuant, She named the effluent, Insisting an oxide had zinxed her. There once was a fellow from Flint Who blamed his habitual squint On the airborne lye That assaults the eye From clouds of a yellowish tint. There once was a hunter from Spruce Whose trigger-hand twitched from disuse; He crouched in his blind And, with time to unwind, Did away with a species of goose. A carefree angler from Boon Has been humming a different tune Since finding out There will be no trout If we don't stop pollution, and soon. 15

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