I received my contributor’s copy of a chapbook called Unspeakable Limericks last week, and I enjoyed it so much I thought I’d pass word along here. The editors — Tyree Campbell and L.A. Story Houry — really take this humorous form of poetry seriously, as their introduction to the book attests (and as I know from experience, as they painstakingly worked with me to edit my own poem in the book, “Crazy Biology,” to perfection). Campbell and Houry mean serious business with this silly form, and the results are unanimously good: the limericks are hilarious and masterful. The “unspeakable” title is a bit of a misnomer — you’re destined to find yourself reading the poems aloud to friends, marveling over their wit.
Though not all are as dirty, bawdy, naughty or grotesque as its “unspeakable” title might suggest, every poem has that sideways grin you expect from a good limerick. Most have the formal meter and punch-line timing you’d expect, while others push the boundaries of the pattern a little bit, keeping the book from falling into a rut of mind-numbing redundancy. But it’s not as bizarre as it advertises and I would rate the book PG-13 if it were a film. But that rating does not damn this book; in fact, I think Unspeakable Limericks is doing many things right, including holding back from being too excessive with sex and violence.
One of the distinguishing features of the collection is the genre focus, as each poem falls within the speculative genres of science fiction, fantasy, or horror. This makes the collection feel like collegial light fun. The collection contains 37 poems and includes some familiar names in the genre press. Bruce Boston contributes some of the most scientific sounding limericks (“a google decided to engage in sex/while all of its aughts were still convex…”); while Marcie Tentchoff delivers high fantasy at its most notoriously inventive (“once boastfully proud of his scars/the elf-hunting orc chief Thr’xgar…”); and Alice Henderson tosses in some very strong genre blends that are truly horrific (“I clawed at the airlock in vain/as the larvae crawled into my brain…”). Other familiar poets include Cathy Buburuz, Stephen D. Rogers, Ann K. Schwader, Shannon Riley, P. Andrew Miller, Terrie Relf, Lee Clarke Zumpe, Kevin Hayes, and many more.
The book is well arranged and filled with enough variety of form and genre to sustain a straight read all the way through. Although I don’t think the cover matches the content, the production value is pretty strong for a chapbook of this ilk. There are many fantastic illustrations by Teri Santitoro (some in color!) both inside and out, and the book features fine paper interiors. Limericks are a form you either love or hate, but I think this 27 page book — an homage to Isaac Asimov’s “Lecherous Limericks” — will both charm and satisfy you, whether you’re a fan of poetry or not. Available for $9 from Sam’s Dot Publishing: