How to write simple poetry (well, my way, anyway)

Writing simple poems can be a lot of fun, and can be very useful, too, for social occasions like weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, etc. and even for personalized greetings to clients and customers, for promotional purposes, and for PR.

Let’s start with limericks

Limericks are all-time favourites for light-hearted, happy occasions and are surprisingly easy to write. Because of their well-known structure and strong connections with the naughty world of “adult” humour readers and live audiences will tend to assume a limerick is going to be funny as soon as you start reading or reciting it.

Also, limericks only have to be vaguely connected with the person or occasion at which they are performed, and in some ways the more outrageous and/or silly they are the more the audience will appreciate them.

The rhythm of a limerick is always basically the same, although you can add little twiddles to it such as those I have included in brackets:

De DUM de de DUM de de DUM (de)

De DUM de de DUM de de DUM (de)

De de DUM de de DUM (de)

De de DUM de de DUM (de)

De DUM de de DUM de de DUM (de)

And the rhyming scheme of a limerick is always the same, too; lines one, two and five rhyme with each other, and lines three and four rhyme with each other.

The trick when writing limericks is to pick line-end words that offer you lots of rhyming options.

Recently a friend of mine was going to a birthday party where every guest had to get up and perform a limerick about the birthday boy, a lawyer whose name was a very useful “Tim.” My friend called on me for help and this is what I wrote for him to say…

There was a smart lawyer called Tim

Who never quite learned how to swim

But a plaintiff from hell

Threw him into a well

Now Tim’s back-stroke’s superbly in trim.

I think my job would have been harder if the lawyer’s name had been, say, Marcus or Boris!

As with other types of poetry it’s a great help if you decide on your theme – which is nearly always expressed in the first line of the limerick – and then list as many words that rhyme with the line-end word of your choice. This gives you a range to choose from for lines one, two and five. In the case of Tim, here, I wrote down the following:

Tim, dim, him, Jim, gym, Kim, limb, rim, vim, whim, slim, swim, trim

I liked the idea of “swim” so it wasn’t hard to come up with the idea for lines three and four. And the last line needs a bit of punch, and/or to create a surprise – it’s like the punch line of a joke.

Adapting existing poetic material

If you don’t want to write your own poem from scratch, you could consider “adapting” some well known material for the purposes of your wedding speech.

This does not necessarily have to be a poem; it can be the words of a song, a hymn, or even a prayer. And any lawyers reading book please calm down. I honestly don’t think anyone would ever complain about someone reciting the words to a copyrighted piece at a private event like a wedding. In any case a great deal of popular, well known poems, songs and hymns are either out of copyright or not subject to copyright laws anyway.

Let’s be naughty for a moment then and look at how we could use some of that old Cahn/Van Heusen song made famous by Frank Sinatra, called “Love And Marriage.”


Love and marriage, love and marriage
Go together like a horse and carriage
This I tell you brother
You can’t have one, you can’t have one, you can’t have one without the other

Now – let’s say you’re giving a speech at a wedding and want to say something about the bridegroom, whose name is Simon…

Your potential adaptation:

Love and marriage, love and marriage
Go together like a horse and carriage
This I tell you, Simon
So you be-ware, you’ll be nowhere, unless you really put the time in!

Rewritten nursery rhymes

Another type of poem / song you might like to adapt is the nursery rhyme. Here are some examples from two of my joke books, to give you a flavour of how these can work. The doggie ones are from “Canine Capers” (available in the UK here, and in the USA here) and the horsey ones are, predictably, from “The Horse Lover’s Joke Book” (available in the UK here, and in the USA here.)

Hickory dickory dock

A Collie watched his flock

A bee stung his nose

So hard that he froze

And stood still while his flock ran amok.

Hickory dickory dock

Jump off against the clock

The horse struck one

Four faults were done

“Oh, Hickory dickory … damn!”

Three Setter dogs

Three Setter dogs

See how they run

See how they run

The owner’s jumping up and down

And shouting like a demented clown

But the Setters are off for a night on the town

Three Setter dogs

Three stroppy mares

Three stroppy mares

See how they bite

See how they bite

They all ran after the farrier

And bit him on his posterior

It made him feel so inferior

Three stroppy mares

Mary Mary quite contrary

How was obedience class?

Sit and stay went quite well but his “walkies” were hell

Barbara Woodhouse, your methods were crass.

Mary Mary quite contrary

How did the dressage test go?

Counter-canter went well but my half-pass was hell

So in all it was quite a poor show.


Happy poetry writing!

Make sure all your writing is sheer poetry…

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

“The English Language Joke book”…hundreds of laughs about this crazy language of ours




  1. There was once a woman called Suze,
    who liked to give us some clues,
    how to find words that rhyme
    in the nick of time.
    So now I can rhyme my news 😉

    • Brilliant! Here’s my reply…

      A post-Christmas girl called Angelika
      After too much to drink was quite delicaaa…
      It wasn’t too smarty…
      …to party and party
      And that’s why she felt just like hellikaaaa.

  2. There was a gent from Stratford
    Whose poetry was really crap
    Suze suggested he move to Catford
    Now his prose is purrfect

    • LOL, Steven – here goes…

      A man by the name of Steve Healey
      Took his motorbike out for a wheelie
      He fell off with a thump
      On his head was a lump
      “But ‘twas nothing,” he sighed, “well, not really.”


  1. […] your kids to compose a short poem of thanks, type it out nicely, print it out and […]

  2. […] your kids to compose a short poem of thanks, type it out nicely, print it out and […]

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