Clutching at Clerihews

I WAS introduced to a collection of clerihews the other day – A Clutch of Clerihews, in fact, (of people and places, of nations and races, of dorps, towns and cities, of different languages and ethnicities) by an amazing man called Feo Sachs.

It all began when I was trying to book a pet-friendly guesthouse in Plettenberg Bay and was lucky enough to find one owned by Feo and his artist wife, Carol.

During the course of our pre-arrival e-mailed “conversations”, Carol had discovered my Word Nerds website, the name of which, she said, tickled her interest.

“I’ve spent the past half hour reading your articles … love your style … My husband Feo (no, not a spelling mistake) has just published a book of clerihews – I think you’ll enjoy talking to each other,” she wrote.

And we did.

In fact, not only was the conversation great, the modern, sleek and sophisticated accommodation, designed by architect Feo himself and nestled in bird-heavy trees, was also a delight.

And I learned more about clerihews.

Named after their originator, writer Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956), they’re “short, witty, comical and nonsensical verse in four lines of varying length”, explained Feo.

Carol and another artist, Helen Mudge, were responsible for some of the illustrations in Feo’s book although, as Carol explained, he ended up drawing most of them himself.

“With his zany sense of these verses, he knew what he wanted.”

He became a man obsessed, she told me. “One would talk to him, to make a point, for example, and he’d rhyme the last word.”

Topics given the Feo treatment include the Statue of Liberty, the Titanic, the game of golf, the 2010 World Cup, Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and even Harry Potter’s Professor Dumbledore.

Architects – not unnaturally – get the treatment, too. Franks Lloyd Wright and Gehry (“See his Guggenheim at Bilbao/again, no stucco/His LA Disney concert hall/will hold you in thrall”) are two of Feo’s favourites.

Artists include Pieter Brueghel who, according to Feo, “painted many a kugel”.

Am I being presumptuous/writing these verses euphonious/some humorous, dubious or vacuous/others ingenious, spontaneous or harmonious,” he asks.

Reading Feo’s funny rhymes in the glass, slate, chrome and leather surroundings of our delightful stopover, I couldn’t get the echoes of Victorian-era composers Gilbert and Sullivan out of my mind.

Think I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major General from The Pirates of Penzance and you’ll have the rhythm just about right.

There’s more to come, too, I’m assured.

Octogenarian Feo – who only retired from his architectural practice 2½ years ago – is already planning the next one: A Fullness of Flippered, Finned, Fanged, Furred, Feathered and Other Fauna.

If you’re interested in finding out more, e-mail Carol at sachscarol@gmail.comStevie Godson
A version of this column first appeared in the Daily Dispatch

 

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This entry was posted by stevieg on Sunday, May 29th, 2011 at 4:22 pm and is filed under General . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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