Please enter by mail electronical,
Not by owl, like Professor McGonagall.
   It is due by 2/2,
   At high noon, it is due.
As to time zone, the Mountain's canonical.

Oh, and . . . tell your friends!


David Rodeback's Blog

Local Politics and Culture, National Politics,
Life Among the Mormons, and Other Stuff

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Groundhog Day Limerick Contest III

Please enter by mail electronical,
Not by owl, like Professor McGonagall.
   It is due by 2/2,
   At high noon, it is due.
As to time zone, the Mountain's canonical.

Oh, and . . . tell your friends!


The  Third Annual Groundhog Day Limerick Contest, that's what. (The second was in 2008. LBB, including a kidney transplant in the family, caused last year's to be scrubbed.)

What's the Deadline?

Groundhog Day, February 2, 2010, of course -- at 12:00 noon Mountain Standard Time, to be precise.

Who Is Eligible to Enter?

US residents only, please. There is no entry fee, and you don't have to buy anything to win. (In fact, there's nothing to buy.) Void where prohibited. All entries become the property of and may be published there. If you're under 18, parent or guardian permission is required to enter, to have your limerick(s) published, and to receive a prize; see instructions below.

The judge himself is ineligible to enter. (But see his inspiring sample limericks.) Immediate family members or other relatives of the judge are eligible to enter on the terms just described, but will get no special favors from the judge.

How Does One Enter?

Send your limerick(s) by e-mail to d a v i . (If you're typing the address instead of using the link, remove the spaces in "d a v i d" and make the subject line "2010 Limerick Contest Entry" -- which will happen automatically if you use the link.) Include:

  • your real name;
  • your age if under 21;
  • your city, state, and ZIP code; and
  • at least one limerick you are entering.

(You may send additional entries in separate e-mail messages, but be sure the information is complete in each message.)

Note: By entering you affirm that any limerick(s) sent are your own work, that you are eligible to enter under all the rules above, that all entries are the property of, and -- if you are younger than 18 -- that you have parent or guardian permission to enter the contest, to have your work published if it is selected for publication, and to receive any prize described below if you win. Eligibility is subject to verification.

What Prizes? What Categories?

In the past, there has been one award per category. This year, we'll do it differently. Assuming there are enough worthy entries, there will be at least three awards for the most outstanding limericks, which may be in any of the categories listed below. There will be honorable mention in each category.

The categories for 2010 are:

  • Groundhog Day
  • American Fork, Utah
  • National Politics and Government
  • Life Among the Mormons

The three prize winners may select among these prizes (of approximately equal value):

  • A new DVD of the 1993 Harold Ramis film  Groundhog Day (1993, PG), still in its shrink wrap, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. (Roger Ebert will be happy to tell you why this is a great film.)
  • An $8 gift certificate to JCW's (American Fork or Lehi, Utah) or In-n-Out (you know who you are).
  • An $8 gift certificate.

Winning entries will be published at Excellent non-winning entries will be awarded Honorable Mention and . . . well, mentioned. As in published.

Winners will be notified by e-mail as soon as judging is complete, and must provide a mailing address to receive their prize.

E-mail addresses and mailing addresses will be used only for purposes related to this contest and will not be published.

What About Multiple Entries?

Entrants may submit one or more verses in one or more categories, but no entrant may win more than one category.

Who Judges, and by What Criteria?

We hope to engage a guest judge next year, but for now the sole judge is David Rodeback, chief blogger and bottle washer of His qualifications include actual graduate work and university teaching experience in literature, decades of occasional dabbling in the limerick form, and some experience organizing limerick contests at parties.

To qualify for judging at all, entries must 

  • follow the limerick form in rhyme and meter,
  • be somehow related to the category's theme,
  • be the original work of the entrant,
  • be previously unpublished, and
  • not be offensive to the tasteful reader, in the sole judgment of the judge. (Not bawdy, vulgar, or obscene -- but deftly suggestive could work. It's limerick, after all.)

Winning entries in each category will be the most satisfying to the playful literary palate (in the judge's judgment -- that's why he's the judge), according to these criteria (in no particular order): 

  • wit,
  • literary merit,
  • cultural insight,
  • fitness for publication,
  • proper use of the English language (or really clever innovation), and  
  • mastery of the limerick form.

How Strict Are You About the Limerick Form?

Fairly strict. Some of the limericks I've seen win other contests would not fare well in this one. Here are the basics:

  • Each limerick is a single five-line stanza.
  • Lines 1, 2, and 5 rhyme.
  • Lines 3 and 4 rhyme.
  • Lines 1, 2, and 5 have three feet; lines 3 and 4 have two feet. The foot is anapest or amphibrach -- three-syllable feet with stress on the second or third syllable, respectively.
  • Lines 3 and 4 are sometimes indented, but need not be.

If you want to be more technical, here's goes. Judging by experience, limericks tend to sound right to the judge's ear if they follow these principles:

  • Rhymes may but need not be absolutely precise; see lines 1, 2, and 5 of the first stanza in the last section below: phenomenon / comment on / ponder on. (If you must know, as defined at Wikipedia, this example's imprecision makes it oblique rhyme, which is fine. Imperfect rhyme, half or sprung rhyme, and consonant rhyme are unwelcome. Semirhyme and assonant rhyme should be used sparingly, if at all.)
  • It is permissible occasionally to drop one of the unstressed syllables in a foot, especially in the first foot of a line. For example, in the first stanza below, "We're pleased" and "Our contest." (Here the stressed syllable is underlined for the sake of illustration.)
  • Sometimes a third unstressed syllable may be added to a foot without diminishing the effect. (See the fifth stanza below, "limerick well" -- if you choose to pronounce "limerick" with three syllables.)
  • Rhyming lines ordinarly should have the same number of unstressed syllables after the last stressed syllable (0 is masculine, 1 is feminine, and 2 is dactylic.)
  • To (almost) quote George Orwell, "Break [almost] any of these rules sooner than do anything outright barbarous."

Each stanza in the last section below is acceptable.

Any Other Fine Print?

To obtain a list of prize winners, or to read winning and honorable mention limericks, check this web site. Winning entries will be posted by 5:00 p.m. on Groundhog Day, barring interference by LBB, in which event they will be posted later.

Couldn't You Have Written This Whole Announcement in Limerick Stanzas?

Most of it, at least. It might have gone something like this -- but, for the record, it didn't, right? For the record. As you read, note how the limerick becomes tiresome in multiple stanzas. The judge will probably disqualify entries with multiple stanza . . . or may treat the best single stanza as an entry, if it stands alone.

We are pleased to announce a phenomenon
To divert us from all that we comment on:
   Our Third-Ever Tourney,
   A lexical journey,
Our contest of verses to ponder on.

The first topic gives us our deadline --
For that matter, also our headline:
   It is Groundhog Day, friend.
   When will this winter end?
(Does anything else rhyme with "deadline"?)

American Fork is the second.
To thousands of folks it has beckoned.
   Please tell us in verse
   What is better or worse
Or amusing or yet to be reckoned.

Other topics, which vary a bittical,
In most years include the political.
   We embrace the Obama
   And the temp of Earth Mama
As fodder for doggerel wittical.

Poets must write in limerick well measured,
So the reader is properly pleasured.
   Please don't be obscene.
   (You know what we mean.)
Write such verse as my mom would have treasured.

Please enter by mail electronical,
Not by owl, like Professor McGonagall.
   It is due by 2/2,
   At high noon, it is due.
As to time zone, the Mountain's canonical.

'Nuff said?

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