A longtime employee at a popular independent book store in eastern Iowa is on the other side of the transaction now, pitching his own first book. Paul Ingram has assembled what he’s calling, “The Lost Clerihews of Paul Ingram.”
A clerihew is a type of 4-line poem that’s very brief and leans toward the humorous and irreverent. Ingram gives an example: “J.M. Barrie/Had too much sherry/And made a man/Out of Peter Pan,” Ingram says. “They’re sort of literary things that are disrespectful to those who frequently get too much respect.”
The 67-year-old Ingram claims he began creating rhymes before he could crawl. He says he’s been reciting clerihews for more than 20 years and has finally put them all in one place. “There are about 150 of them in there,” Ingram says. “Some of them are on the naughty side. Some of them push things to the very edge of being too naughty and they have really taken off like wildfire in Iowa City.” Ingram has been a bookseller at Prairie Lights in Iowa City for some two-and-a-half decades.
There are all sorts of poetry, from haikus to limericks, but Ingram says the cherihew has long appealed to him. “They’re four lines, the first line has to be the name of somebody famous and the rest of it has to sort of make fun of them,” he says. The first two lines need to rhyme with each other, as do the last two lines.
He offers two more examples of his poems:
“Joseph McCarthy/Hirsute and swarthy/Never looked pretty/Before his committee,” Ingram reads. “Willa Cather/Would really have rather/Been William or Walt/Though it wasn’t her fault.”
The book is available through the Ice Cube Press, based in North Liberty.