Arts and Entertainment

Winners of Eagle Harbor Book Co.'s limerick contest to be revealed April 29

It figures the one person Bob Leik couldn’t beat would turn out to be a United States congressman.

“It’s not as though it was a political favor, or anything like that,” said Eagle Harbor Book Co. employee Mary Gleysteen, of the store’s annual limerick contest. The submissions are blind, so little did the judges realized they’d awarded top prize to Rep. Jay Inslee last year.

But Leik, who nabbed a few honorable mentions in the contest’s inaugural 2008 go-round, was happy to come in second in 2009. After all, “it’s just fun doing,” he said.

The results of the third annual Eagle Harbor Book Co. limerick contest will be presented at 7:30 p.m. April 29 at 157 Winslow Way. Submissions were taken earlier this year, and now three judges must name the best from 70 entries, said store employee and poet John Willson.

Willson, who calls poetry “the most concentrated form of verbal expression,” said the limerick contest came about as “a pipe dream” when he and fellow author and employee Ann Combs began swatting rhymes back and forth during their Monday night shift at the store.

“During some of those dead hours we got into the habit of bouncing limericks off one another,” he said. “Sometimes, one of us would start a limerick and the other would finish it.”

So they came up with a few, including this one, which adheres not only to a limerick’s required rhyme scheme, but off-color nature as well:

There once was a man from Fort Ward

Who was overly proud of his sword

He buckled and swashed

And enemies quashed

But occasionally relatives gored.

“I think some of the cleverest ones do have those double entendres,” said Willson, 56. “The limerick genre itself has a tradition of having a rather off-color streak to it.”

A limerick is a five-line poem of anapestic meter, meaning its lines usually consist of the repetition of two short syllables followed by a long one; the first, second and fifth lines must rhyme, as must the third and fourth.

“Because you have the form,” Willson said, of the art of limerick writing, “most of the decisions of the poem have already been made for you. All you have to do is pour words into the form.”

And of course, there’s the fun of getting to choose a topic, be it tawdry, political or centered on a pun. The Eagle Harbor contest encourages poets to take on notable places around Bainbridge. Here’s Leik’s 2009 entry, which won second place:

It once was the Sand Spit, you know,

But labels like that have to go,

When realtors hover

They quickly discover

It sells more if called Point Monroe.

“I like verse, not poetry in the classic sense,” said Leik, 79, a former sociology professor who also writes songs and rhymed messages in Christmas and birthday cards. “Especially I like puns, which limericks are good for.”

Leik’s wife, Sheila, is from Bainbridge Island and has a long-standing knowledge of some of the island’s most infamous locales. Leik said he doesn’t expect a win this year, as he “didn’t quite have the sense of humor” when writing about a more serious topic, the island’s budgetary conflicts.

Both Leik and Willson agree, humor and meter are key to a good limerick.

“If you’re one or two syllables off, it can really fall flat on its face,” said Willson.

Eagle Harbor plans to compile limericks from 2008-2010 in a book to benefit the Stephens House and Bainbridge Island Special Needs Foundation. To learn more, visit eagleharborbooks.com. WU

“There once was a Swedish crab catcher,

On Bainbridge he laid on a stretcher,

He looked nearly dead,

Then meekly he said,

‘Da crab’s yist too big in dere Fletcher.’”

Jay Inslee, 2009 winning limerick

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