September 16, 2011
Love, Life, and Laughter in Limericks
New Book Explores Life in 600 Entertaining and Enlightening Limericks
Limericks can be fun to read and even to compose. I’ve composed a couple of my own over the years, but never could I have conceived of writing over six hundred of them. But Harold Richter has done so with a purpose, and he states on the back cover of “Love, Life, and Laughter in Limericks” that publishing this book of limericks has been a “long time ambition.” He states that “A few years back, I listened to some audio books, directed towards enlightenment. Though I didn’t agree 100% with the authors’ views on everything, they did put into words clearly, how they felt love and life work, in a fashion that, for the most part, didn’t contradict my own outlooks and experiences.”
After feeling he knew more about life and love from listening to these books and his own experiences, Richter wanted to write his own insights about them, but he wanted to do so “in an acceptable, enjoyable, and easily understood method.” Since he had long been writing poetry, he settled on using the limerick form to convey his ideas to readers. A lot of self-help books are out there, but “Love, Life, and Laughter in Limericks” isn’t one of them. Nevertheless, readers might become better people from reading this book—at least, they will feel lighter and happier, and they may come away with a new viewpoint about different aspects of life. And best of all, Richter’s use of the short limerick form gets to the point of various matters, often with a sharp twist at the end of the poem, a turn that is often humorous or meaningful or both. Richter’s poetry is sometimes sarcastic, sometimes just funny, now and then a bit sad, and frequently insightful; it is never cruel, biting, nor distasteful—he does have a few poems relating to body functions, but nothing too gross or grotesque. It’s all in good fun.
In case anyone doesn’t know what a limerick is, I’ll quote a few of my favorites from this collection so readers can get an idea of Richter’s style and some of his themes. The book is divided into several sections on different themes, and they appear at first glance to be lengthy poems, but each section is actually composed of numerous five line limericks. The section titles are: “What is Love?” “What is Life?” and “What is Laughter?” Each of these sections begins with a short essay on the topic. Several of the sections are further broken up into groups of poems with such topics as: Ego, Health, Smoking, Government, Cold and Flu Season, and Holidays.
Here are a few samples. Two of my favorites from the “Love” group, which reflect serious or philosophical aspects, are:
Two of my other favorite poems come from the Christmas selections. The first one is an example of Richter’s humor:
And this other Christmas limerick is one of several limericks in the book that speak a bit to politics and current events (with humor):
I could quote several more, but I think those are fair representations of the variety of humor and seriousness in Richter’s limericks, some of which made me laugh out loud, while others I went back to read over as they made me pause in thought.
Richter adds a few “Extras” at the book’s end, poems not in limerick form, one of which pleasantly surprised me for what it reveals about Richter—I’ll leave it up to readers to discover what that is for themselves. Richter concludes the book with “A Final Point,” a thoughtful essay that asks us to think about how we define ourselves and how we think of others.
Overall, the book is thoughtful while being fun and easy to read. It’s not Shakespeare, but it succeeds at what it aims at, and while I initially thought a book of limericks might grow tedious after reading a few dozen, it kept my interest throughout. A person could read just one limerick a day and have enough to be entertained for nearly two years, or read the book in a few sittings without being bored. Again, I cannot imagine writing so many limericks. I think I will have their rhythms in my head for many days to come and I will have to try to make up a few more of my own. I recommend “Love, Life, and Laughter in Limericks” for anyone who wants a fun, light, but meaningful book to read. I hope Harold Richter lives to write more limericks and give his readers more laughs.
For more information about Harold Richter and “Love, Life, and Laughter in Limericks,” visit www.HaroldRichter.com
— Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. and author of the award-winning Narrow Lives
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