There Once Was a City Named Knox... Our Limerick Contest Results

Here are the favorites from our challenge to write the finest possible Knoxville limerick

When we sent out a call for Knoxville-themed limericks last month, we didn't really know what to expect. Sure, everyone loves a limerick. The form's rhythm and rhyme schemes are immediately pleasing, and its often bawdy content gives an added jangle. But how many people would actually sit down and write poems for us, of any kind?

A lot, it turns out. We received dozens of submissions, from near and far, which attempted with varying success to cram local references, people, and events into what academics would call the limerick's anapestic metrical restrictions and AABBA structure. Some themes appeared repeatedly: the extracurricular, extralegal activities of University of Tennessee athletes; the dubious morality of local elected officials; and, for all of those failings, an abiding sense of civic pride.

We sorted through them here at Metro Pulse central, with assistance from local ad-man, wit, and limerick enthusiast Tom Jester (after whom we have named our Grand Prize, the Jester's Cup). Our contest sponsor, McKay Used Books & CDs, will award books to the grand and second prize winners, as well as the winner of our special challenge: completing a limerick with the first line, "There once was a virgin from Vestal." Hencewith, the winners, some of our other favorites, and a few submissions from Metro Pulse staff and contributors. Many thanks to all who took the time to respond. And keep in mind...

If you don't like what you see,

The one to complain to ain't me

As we say on South Gay,

"You get what you pay,"

Remember this paper is free

—Jesse Fox Mayshark

Grand Prize: The Jester's Cup

There was no requirement for anyone to exceed the standard five-line stanza, but a few ambitious entrants did it anyway. By far the most impressive of these, and our grand prize winner, is reader Janet Westbrook. Her six-limerick epic is notable both for its thematic scope and its consistent but non-redundant rhyme scheme: 18 lines ending in "-ality," without repeating a word. Hats off, gentlemen.

Ripped from the Headlines!

(A Portrait of Knoxville in Limerick Form)

In Knoxville the civic mentality

Is characterized by banality.

No child's left behind,

Yet we're shocked (shocked!) to find

Education is just a formality.

There are folks who show great liberality

And others with strong practicality.

But so often we see

Some suit take a plea,

In public admitting venality.

There are those who excel at brutality;

A few manifest bestiality.

But some beat fires back

Or die young in Iraq.

Hence K-Town's extremes of morality.

A Commission of dubious legality,

A Council of grand theatricality —

They mug and they pose

But can't see past their nose,

Like those shows of purported "reality".

UT's face is originality,

The life of the mind, rationality.

But its true renown

In this scruffy old town

Is its questing for sports immortality.

Still, this town has a lot of vitality

And offers a warm hospitality.

So despite all the flaps

And the logical gaps,

There's hope for this municipality!

Second Prize

Of the many limericks submitted about the foibles of UT scholarship athletes, this is our favorite. Congratulations, Roger Gray.

There once was a town full of brawls

Thugs filled up the jail house's walls

The Judge said okay—

We won't send you away

We need you to play for the Vols

Bonus Challenge: The Virgin From Vestal

Many people tried to complete a limerick starting with our proffered line, only to discover (as we had intended them to) that "Vestal" is something of a devilish rhyme. (A wink and nod to the multiple submissions along the lines of, "There once was a virgin from Vestal/Well, actually there weren't any...") We're not sure what it says about either virgins or Vestal that several entries revolved around intergalactic intercourse—including our favorite and bonus challenge winner, written by Troy Dunn of True Blue Electric Tattoo on Chapman Highway.

There once was a Virgin from Vestal,

To the Sheriff she placed this distressed call,

"There's been an alien mugging!

Anal probing! Face Hugging!

I fear soon they will burst through my chest wall!"

Honorable Mentions, Runners Up, and Oddities

An assortment of some of our favorites. Some don't quite meet rhyme or meter requirements, but get bonus points for their creative local references.

Knoxville's a scruffy old city

And will stay that way, more's the pity.

For without the will

To foot the bill

It just can't afford creativity.

—Jim Hagerman

There once was a curmudgeon named Cas

Whose scissors sheared prices quite fast

His melons, they thumped

His Watchdog, it grumped

And kept all of Knoxville aghast

—Mary Pom Claiborne

There once was a virgin from Vestal

Who said, "It don't count if you don't tell!"

Her lovers were many

Paying dollars and pennies

I may have been one, but I won't tell.

—William Morris

Neil and Bob finally set the date

And were married at Union and Gay.

The reception was frenzied

With guests at Lord Lindsey

And protesters where Church crosses State.

—Brent Minchey

There once was a virgin from Vestal

Whose beauty some said was celestial.

Then a spaceship came down

To the infamous town

And she married an extraterrestr'al!

—Darlene Chapman

There once was a virgin from Vestal

Who vowed as she spake, "I shall test all

Knoxvillian stock

Before trying wedlock."

Go north guys .... Kentucky's the best call!

—Doug Harris

Stockton-on-Tees, England

[Mr. Harris is a self-described "amateur historian of limerick verse," and owner of "a library of some 1,250 books from as early as 1820 which I hope one day to use as the basis for a (hands-on/exciting) museum that celebrates this most accessible of poetic forms."]

There once was a forest in Knox

Home to the rabbit and fox

It was bulldozed and paved

Not a green thing was saved

In order to build a big box.

—Jim Hagerman

There once was a virgin from Vestal.

She said, "As to men, I detest all."

But from Karns, not so distant

Came a chap so persistent

That he finally left Vestal successful.

—Bob Thompson

From Our Staff and Contributors

These were obviously not eligible for prizes, but we figured we'd take a crack anyway.

Romance in West Knoxville is tough

The ladies are lovely, but gruff

Things can get weird in

The taverns of Bearden,

And dangerous at Cedar Bluff

—Jesse Fox Mayshark

There once was a man from Fort Sanders

Who kidnapped the Knoxville Zoo's panders

But he saw they were red;

"They're embarrassed," he said

"Poor critters been victims of slanders."

—Jack Neely

A Republican fellow named Burchett,

If he didn't know, he'd research it.

His thinking was as pure

As organic manure

No enemy could dare besmirch it.

—Jack Neely

If you wanted chicken in Knox

you could get them fried up in a box.

Then coops went legit

But the chicks pitched a fit

Because hens were allowed but not cocks.

—Michael Haynes