How to Write a Clerihew

You’re going to love learning how to write clerihews. Why? Because clerihews are funny poems you write about specific people. That means when you learn to write a clerihew, you can instantly write funny poems about your parents, your teacher, your favorite movie star, your best friend, your pet, or anyone else you can think of. The clerihew was created by a poet named Edmund Clerihew Bentley (and named after himself!) when he was just 16 years old, proving you don’t have to be old to invent a new kind of poem.

Clerihews have just a few simple rules:

  1. They are four lines long.
  2. The first and second lines rhyme with each other, and the third and fourth lines rhyme with each other.
  3. The first line names a person, and the second line ends with something that rhymes with the name of the person.
  4. A clerihew should be funny.

That’s it! You don’t have to worry about counting syllables or words, and you don’t even have to worry about the rhythm of the poem.

Let’s look at an example. Let’s say your art teacher was named Mr. Shaw, and you wanted to write a clerihew about him. You might start your clerihew like this:

Our art teacher, Mr. Shaw,
Really knows how to draw.

Notice that the first line ends with the name of the person the clerihew is about, Mr. Shaw. The second line ends with “draw” because it rhymes with “Shaw.”

To finish the clerihew, you need to write two more rhyming lines. In a well-written clerihew, those next two lines will make the poem funny, like this:

Our art teacher, Mr. Shaw,
Really knows how to draw.
But his awful paintings
Have caused many faintings.

You don’t have to limit yourself to writing clerihews about people you know. You can write clerihews about people you have never met. A clerihew will work best, though, if you write it about someone who is well known, or who at least is known to the people who will read it.

For example, if I wrote a clerihew about my aunt Norma, that might not mean anything to you. But it might work very well if I planned to share it only with my family. On the other hand, if I wrote a clerihew about a famous musician, it might be funny to many more people. Here is an example of a clerihew about some well-known singers:

The music of Katy Perry
Is kind of scary.
I heard it and sniffed,
“I much prefer Taylor Swift.”

And you don’t have to limit your clerihews to real people. You can even write clerihews about characters from books, movies, comics, cartoons, etc. Here’s an example of a clerihew about a character from a book:

The enemy of Harry Potter
Was a scheming plotter.
I can’t tell you what he’s called; I’d be ashamed
To name “he who must not be named.”

So you see, clerihews are short, easy to write and can be about any person or character, real or not. They can be about people you know, people you don’t know, or even about animals, cartoon characters, rock groups, or anyone else you can think of.

Just remember, put the person’s name at the end of the first line, rhyme it at the end of the second line, and then write two more rhyming lines that make it funny, and you’re done. Have fun!

Clerihew writing worksheet for kids

Click here to download a clerihew writing worksheet

Kenn Nesbitt
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