History:

A type of epigram invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956), who introduced it in Biography for Beginners (1905) and continued it in More Biography (1929) and Baseless Biography (1939).

Structure:

  • quatrain (four lines) poem of varying length
  • lines of irregular length
  • dipodic meter (two feet, meaning two stresses, per line)
  • rhyming aabb
  • the first line is both the title and the name of a person.
  • as an epigram, it is a satirical poem, as all epigrams are satirical, usually mocking.
  • more than the technique, it is the purposefully clumsy use of the technique that defines the Clerihew. The wording is usually humorously mangled to achieve a rhyme, the meter is purposefully clumsy, and the rhyme is awkward.

Sources:

Turco, Lewis. The Book of Forms. p. 328

https://www.britannica.com/art/clerihew