New book traces the history of the limerick

Alan Owens

Reporter:

Alan Owens

The history of the limerick: Salesians students Sinead OBrien, Ava Dorman, Leah Mulch and Molly Doherty at the launch of Dr Matthew Potter's book Poem and Place: Limerick and the limerick at Culture House in Pery Square. Picture: Brian Arthur/Press 22
LIMERICK is ‘intrinsically linked’ with the five line verse that bears its name, in the same way as Shakespeare is associated with Stratford and Joyce is linked with Dublin.

LIMERICK is ‘intrinsically linked’ with the five line verse that bears its name, in the same way as Shakespeare is associated with Stratford and Joyce is linked with Dublin.

This declaration was made by academic Dr Matthew Potter at the launch of his new book Poem and Place: Limerick and the limerick.

Produced by Limerick Archives through Limerick City of Culture funding, the book examines the limerick’s origins, which date back to the 13th century.

“It was a great honour for me on behalf of Limerick Archives to investigate one of the greatest mysteries in literature and to discover the missing connect between Limerick the place and limerick the poem,” explained Dr Potter, historian with Limerick City and County Council.

Dr Potter’s book traces the story of the limerick as we know it, which can be divided into two time periods - developing between the 13th and 19th centuries from the first limerick, which is included in a song called ‘Sumer Is Icumen In’ (Summer has arrived) written in 1260.

“The limerick slowly developed between 1260 and 1861 until Edward Lear, who became known as father of the contemporary limerick, published his third edition of A Book of Nonsense,” said Dr Potter, adding that his new book “documents this transition and how the poem has become intrinsically linked with Limerick in the same way as Shakespeare is associated with Stratford, Joyce is linked with Dublin”.

The book also includes limericks written by local schoolchildren who participated in a writing competition and were present at the launch in Culture House in Pery Square last Thursday, as was the Mayor of the Metropolitan District of Limerick, Cllr Michael Sheahan.

“Any person who has heard of the city or county of Limerick would presume there is some connection with the literary form but up until now, this connection has never been fully documented and put forward to the masses,” he said.

“The experience, knowledge and distinct pride of place from Limerick Archives shines through in this publication and will undoubtedly help to promote an increased awareness of the connection between the place and the poem,” he added.

Poem and Place: Limerick and the limerick is available from O’Mahony’s Booksellers priced at €8.