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Doggerel for Dummies


Like most, maybe all, of the authors on Literotica, I write to amuse myself and others, I hope. Mostly, what I write are dirty stories, or smut, with no pretensions that it's any more than that. I do not expect to ever be nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature. Besides the dirty stories, I also write poetry, and I have no pretensions about that, either. Most of what I write, although not all, are jokes, dirty or otherwise, told in verse. All of those are what is usually called doggerel, which my dictionary defines as bad verse. Bad verse or not, there is a right way and a wrong way to write it. Or, maybe that's a wrong way and a more wrong way.

Anyhow, whatever way you describe writing it, doggerel has to rhyme. If you write in blank verse or haiku, it just sounds like a silly paragraph, which is okay, but it's not any kind of verse, and therefore not doggerel. It doesn't really have to scan, which means having the same number of syllables in corresponding lines, and having the same syllables accented. It doesn't have to scan, but it's better, or less bad, if it does, at least most of the time.

You may have heard poets or professors of literature or dedicated fans using mysterious words like "heptameter" or "pentameter" or other combinations, usually preceded by the equally mysterious word "iambic". If these seem confusing to you, don't feel bad about it or think you're stupid, because they are confusing.

An iamb, which rhymes with "my lamb" is a foot. That's not something you kick with, and it's not twelve inches, but it is a unit of measure. More precisely, it is one unstressed, or unaccented syllable, which is followed by a stressed one. The word, "before" appearing in a poem would be one iamb. The word "after" would not be, because the accent is on the first syllable, although it might very well be parts of two successive iambs. There are other kinds of feet, by the way, but iambic is the most common, and I'm not going to get very much into the others. This is "Doggerel for Dummies", you know, not "Doggerel for English Majors".

"Heptameter", of course, means just what it looks like – seven meters, or seven units of measure. So, if a poem is in iambic heptameter, it means that each line in a couplet, or pair of rhyming lines, has 14 syllables, and every second one is accented. A poem in iambic pentameter will have ten syllables in each line in a couplet, with every second one being accented. You can, presumably, have a poem written in iambic quadrameter or hexameter, or anything you want, and some famous poems have been written in those meters although, for some reason, the expressions are rarely used.

I referred to a couplet as being two lines. Sometimes a poet may decide to write a stanza, or verse, of a poem as four lines, with the last words of the second and fourth lines rhyming. The stanza still consists of a couplet, but both lines of the couplet are divided into two parts. If you choose to do this, by the way, the first and third lines should be equal in length and accented the same, as should the second and fourth lines.

Here is the first verse of a poem that I wrote a few years ago in iambic heptameter. The name is "Crap Shooting Blonde" and, it is a good example of doggerel, because it is a joke told as a poem. If you want to see the punch line, you can go to my index and find it. The accented syllables are capitalized.

          The BLONDE in THE caSIno, WORE her COAT down TO her KNEES.
          She WALKED up TO the TAble AND she SAID, "ExCUSE me, PLEASE.
          i WANT to SHOOT some CRAPS here AND i WANT to BET the MAX."
          And PLACED her MOney ON the LINE that SAID that SHE would PASS.

A discerning eye may observe that the last words in the third and fourth lines, or second couplet, don't actually rhyme, but don't worry about that. They are certainly close enough for doggerel.

"Close enough for doggerel" is an important concept to keep in mind. Remember, you are writing for fun, and if the meter isn't perfect, don't worry about it. In fact, you would be in very good company. Some very famous poems by some very famous poets are not in perfect meter.

Of course, doggerel doesn't have to be in iambic meter. Limericks are doggerel, almost by definition, and they are almost always in some other meter. To be properly done, if there is such a thing when we're talking about doggerel, the first, second and fifth lines have to have the same number of syllables and they have to be accented the same. The last word of each of those three lines has to rhyme. The third and fourth lines have to match the same way. You don't always have to worry too much about the rhyming part, because some of the best limericks deliberately don't rhyme. Once again, I will use one of mine as an example. I am using my own stuff because I like people to read it and I don't want to run afoul of any copyright laws.

         a WOman from EAST Saint MorITZ
         Was BLESSED with specTACular TITS.
         She WORE a biKIni,
         InCREdibly TEEny
         And DROVE the men OUT of their WITS.

I mentioned early that doggerel, even in an iambic meter, doesn't have to be in perfect meter, as long as the writer was satisfied with it. However, that is not an excuse to write a poem with a couplet like this:

          I opened the door
          And went in and found something that wasn't there before.

Doggerel is bad verse, not incredibly awful verse. If you are going to write it, you should have some sympathy for those who might read it. Ogden Nash did quite well writing poetry somewhat along the same line, but not as bad, and it often included clever puns. And remember, you're not Ogden Nash.

Poetry has some fairly strict rules but, if you are writing doggerel, you can break them with impunity. However, some verses are better, or less bad, than others. If you are going to write bad verse, especially if you think others might read it, you really should make it the least bad that you can. As long as the lines in couplets have approximately the same number of syllables, and the accents and rhymes are good enough, go for it. Here is the first stanza from some more bad verse that I wrote. The name is "Her Best Feature" and it is 100% doggerel because, like the first one, it tells a joke in a poem. If you want to see the punch line, you will have to go to my index or some such place.

a YOUNG man was MOving inTO an aPARTment and ON down the HALLway he STRODE.
a WOman was STANDing aLONE by a DOORway; her BOdy was WRAPPED in a ROBE.
They STARTed conVERsing; she SPREAD her arms Open, the ROBE opened UP in the FRONT
The YOUNG man was TREATed to VIEWS of her TITties and OF her magNIficent CUNT.

When I'm in the process of writing something like this, I don't capitalize the accented syllables. That would require too much concentration. I write the lines and read them to myself, while making marks like these under each verse of the draft I'm working on:


When I do this, I can see that every line has the same number of syllables and is accented the same. If I have to change some words to make them fit, I do so.

I don't know what kind of meter this would be called, if it even has a name. It's not iambic, because the second syllable of each line is accented and, after that, every third one. For all I know, or care, I may have invented a new form of poetry.

That's one of the fun things about doggerel. Now, go see what you can invent.

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