Welcome back to my month-long #WaterPoemProject, Poetry Friday friends.

It’s Day 12. We have been writing in response to prompts about water for nearly two weeks!

If you’re new to this project, please read the Introduction and FAQ. Or you can watch this video of me describing how to participate. It’s on the YouTube channel Authors Everywhere.

For #WaterPoemProject regulars who are new to Poetry Friday, each week a kidlit blogger hosts poetry-related links and posts from around the kidlitosphere. This week’s host is Heidi Mordhorst, who invites us to Shelter in Poetry at her blog, My Juicy Little Universe. (Thanks, Heidi!) Still confused? Renée LaTulippe has a great post about our weekly poetry party.

Who is joining us to share a writing prompt about water today? It’s poet, children’s book author, and RBG biographer Debbie Levy!

Debbie’s poetry prompt is: Jump on In — Let’s Write Limericks!

Debbie Levy

When I observe animals at home in their environments, whether watery or otherwise, I’m always struck—and usually awed—by the things they do, the structure of their bodies, the sounds of their voices. But you know what else strikes me? How they can make me smile and laugh, especially if I imagine a funny story to go along with what I’m seeing or hearing.

So for my turn on the #WaterPoemProject, I’d like to inspire you to smile or laugh! To do that, I’m sharing two videos that I’ve taken of critters in the Chesapeake Bay, near where I live, and instructions on how to write a poem known as a limerick.

In poetry, there’s nothing quite as silly as a limerick. Limericks are also known as “nonsense” poems. Here’s an example of a limerick by Edward Lear, an English poet of the nineteenth century who was a master of the form:

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, “It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!”

You see? Nonsense. Here’s another:

There was a Young Lady of Norway,
Who casually sat in a doorway;
When the door squeezed her flat,
She exclaimed, “What of that?”
This courageous Young Lady of Norway.

The easiest way to understand the “rules” of a limerick is to read one or two of them aloud and notice where the rhymes fall and what the rhythm of the poem is. What you’ll see is that:

  • A limerick has five lines. Lines 1 and 2 rhyme with each other. Lines 3 and 4 rhyme with each other. Line 5 rhymes with 1 and 2.
  • Lines 1, 2, and 5 have 9 or 10 syllables, or beats.
  • Lines 3 and 4 have 5 or 6 syllables, or beats.
  • The rhythm of a limerick goes like this:

da – DA – da – da – DA – da – da – DA

da – DA – da – da – DA – da – da – DA

da – DA – da – da – DA

da – DA – da – da – DA

da – DA – da – da – DA – da – da – DA

Say the da-das out loud, and you’ll get it.

Okay, here goes. Check out the videos below. One shows a large school of fish. The other is a small school of rays. Let your imagination run free and funny, and think up some ridiculous story to go with what you see. You can focus just on the school of fish, or just on the rays, or put them together. The sillier the better! Then write that story in limerick form. As you’re writing, it may help you to make lists of words that rhyme in the margins of your paper.

Here’s a limerick I came up with—this was something I worked on last week, and the process of thinking and writing brightened my day:

There once was a fish in a pool
Who wanted to swim in a school
He jumped into the bay
Where he found a stingray
And decided to stay home from school.

Have fun! And in case you’re curious about the videos: Every fall in the Chesapeake Bay, giant schools of menhaden can be seen swirling the surface of the water. Often they’re being chased by larger fish, such as striped bass and bluefish, trying to fatten up before the cold winter comes. These giant schools are awesome sights to see.

The second video shows cownose rays (not stingrays) in a river that feeds into the Chesapeake. These schools of cownose rays show up all summer in the Chesapeake region. I love them!


Your task is to jump into a water-themed limerick before the end of the day tomorrow, Friday, April 3, 2020.

If you’re doing the #WaterPoemProject with a group, be sure to share or post your rough draft, read other people’s poems, and cheer for their efforts. Or leave your poem here, in the comments.

Debbie Levy’s most recent book is the graphic novel-style biography Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Journey to Justice (Simon & Schuster 2019). It has no limericks in it, but it does include a couple of RBG’s favorite silly poems when she was a young girl. You can visit Debbie at, connect on Twitter at @debbielevybooks, on Instagram at debbielevybooks, and on Facebook.


#WaterPoemProject Series Posts:

Project Introduction
Prompt 1: Irene Latham, The Language of Water
Prompt 2: Elizabeth Steinglass, What Would a Raindrop Say?
Prompt 3: Linda Mitchell, Found Haiku
Prompt 4: Shari Green, Fogbow Fibonacci
Prompt 5: Margaret Simon, The Taste of Water
Prompt 6: Heather Meloche, The Shape of a Wave
Prompt 7: Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, A Water Memory
Prompt 8: Laura Shovan, Rainy Day Opposites
Prompt 9: Kathryn Apel, Silly Solage
Prompt 10: Buffy Silverman, A Watery Home
Prompt 11: Kara Laughlin, Frozen Fog
Prompt 12: Debbie Levy, Jump into a Limerick
Prompt 13: Joy McCullough, What Are Water Bears?
Prompt 14: Linda Baie, Frozen Water Skinny
Prompt 15: Chris Baron, The Hidden World of Water
Prompt 16: Michelle Heidenrich Barnes, Water Wordplay
Prompt 17: Susan Tan, The Sound of Water
Prompt 18: Mike Grosso, Waterplay!
Prompt 19: R. L. Toalson, Wishing Well
Prompt 20: Margarita Engle, Ode to the Shore
Prompt 21: Faye McCray, Poem in a Bubble
Prompt 22: Meg Eden, Surprising Connections

Please support the #WaterPoemProject authors by buying their books from your favorite independent bookstore.

42 responses to “#WaterPoemProject: Day 12, Debbie Levy”

  1. I wandered with you in the Wood;
    Both quiet, but we understood:
    the river’s been wild
    like an unruly child –
    these currents, the rocks have withstood

  2. There once was an onion named Lou
    Who longed to be cooked in a stew
    To dance with potatoes
    In a sauce of tomatoes
    It was all Lou wanted to do

    I’m not sure stew falls under the umbrella of water themed, but I tried. Actually, if you’ve ever had my stew, you’d be reminded of water…not my strong suit. : )

  3. Well, I couldn’t get the videos to play,
    but here’s a limerick anyway.

    There once was a school of menhaden
    seen off the coast of Manhattan
    A big old striped bass
    had been chasing their ass
    from Norfolk, until it was fattened.

  4. Kay Jernigan McGriff says:

    What a fun prompt! I don’t quite have a limerick yet, but will have to stare at our pond and it critters for inspiration.

  5. Linda Trout says:

    Great prompt! My students and I used to have fun writing limericks together. Debbie’s limerick gave me a smile! Laura, I’m saving the prompts for another time. Thank you so much for this project. Take care and stay well!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thanks, Linda! I’ll post the series on my Padlet so the prompts will be easy to find an use later on.

  6. Limericks are just the spirit of fun we need in these difficult days. I enjoyed all of yours and the ones people have shared in the comments. I’m working on one – but it’s not water themed. I’m all about birds these days!
    I reviewed Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Journey to Justice a couple of weeks ago and was happy to see your mention of it here!

  7. Linda Baie says:

    Terrific to read this prompt & see the videos, too. I imagine kids will have lots to write from them or from their own ‘water’ memories. Thanks, Debbie & Laura!

    There once was a peace-lovin’ crocodile
    who yearned for a genuine smile
    instead received screams
    dismissing his dreams
    transforming him into a bibliophile

  8. Yesterday on my walk I envied all the birds I saw flitting here and there together and apart as though they had not a care in the world. Here is a my limerick for them.

    These birdies think they are so cool
    They forage together like fools
    Perched on their twigs
    They don’t care two figs
    About social distancing rules

  9. I vaguely recalled adding a limerick to one of my anthologies. So thanks for the prompt. Laura and Debbie.
    An old man who lived in Kildare
    Found a large purple mouse in his hair
    He named the mouse Milton
    And fed it on Stilton,
    Although it preferred Camembert.
    (From my book, I Bet There’s No Broccoli On the Moon)

  10. Linda Mitchell says:

    I have loved all the prompts. And, it makes my heart happy to know that kids are also participating. Thanks for hosting the #WaterPoemProject , Laura!

  11. Sally Murphy says:

    Thanks for the prompt. I couldn’t help thinking of the suffocation of being in such a tight group – but the safety it provides against getting eaten:

    There once was a scampy young fish
    Who pondered aloud ‘How I wish
    I could flee from this school
    and its stifling rules
    Without ending up as a dish!’

  12. I can never resist a limerick prompt, thanks Debbie, and Laura. And thanks for the fun videos too!

    There once was a jolly old ray
    Who coaxed a few cousins to play
    But after a while
    They left in pale style
    Cause rays grew too strong on that bay.

  13. Watch now for a pair of light rays
    Who meet in the bay every day.
    One flies underwater,
    One skies high and hotter;
    Watch how bright geometry plays.

    Thanks, Debbie–loved learning about menhaden and cownose rays–your minivideo was inspirational!

  14. Thanks for the fun prompt, Debbie. (Laura knows I love limericks! She and I have that in common.) I’ll try to get back here to leave one in the comments.

  15. […] Apel, Silly Solage Prompt 10: Buffy Silverman, A Watery Home Prompt 11: Kara Laughlin, Frozen Fog Prompt 12: Debbie Levy, Jump into a Limerick Prompt 13: Joy McCullough, What Are Water Bears? Prompt 14: Linda Baie, Frozen Water Skinny Prompt […]

  16. […] Apel, Silly Solage Prompt 10: Buffy Silverman, A Watery Home Prompt 11: Kara Laughlin, Frozen Fog Prompt 12: Debbie Levy, Jump into a Limerick Prompt 13: Joy McCullough, What Are Water Bears? Prompt 14: Linda Baie, Frozen Water Skinny Prompt […]

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Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Her second book, Takedown, is a Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selection. Look for A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, in 2020. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools Maryland.

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