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Light Verse

Light verse is poetry that touches on amusing, light-hearted topics. It does not deal with emotionally heavy themes or traumatic life events. 

No matter their style, movement, or ordinary subject matter, any poet can write light verse. For example, a writer who normally utilizes elements of Gothic literature might break from their traditional style and write a light poem about a humorous event in their everyday life. 

Robert Louis Stevenson is a wonderful example. He is best known for his classic novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but he also wrote light verse, specifically in the form of children’s poetry (an example can be seen below).

Light Verse Definition and Examples



Definition of Light Verse 

Light verse is poetry that engages with simple, usually humorous, and often highly relatable events, experiences, and emotions. These poems are usually filled with literary devices, including imagery, personification and/or anthropomorphism, alliteration, and more. 

Sometimes, literary scholars condemn light poetry for being “unserious” and as not of any great literary importance. But, many of the best-known poets throughout the history of English literature, such as Alexander Pope and W.H. Auden, also wrote light verse. 

Examples of Light Verse in Poetry

The People Upstairs by Ogden Nash

Ogden Nash’s ‘The People Upstairs’ is a great contemporary example of light verse. The speaker uses short lines to describe what he thinks his upstairs neighbors are doing. He uses literary devices like hyperbole and exaggeration to suggest that the noise they’re making comes from jumping on Pogo sticks or bowling. Here are a few lines from the poem: 

They try to get their parties to mix

By supplying their guests with Pogo sticks,

And when their fun at last abates,

They go to the bathroom on roller skates.

I might love the people upstairs more

If only they lived on another floor.

Read more Ogden Nash poems.

Dirty Face by Shel Silverstein 

Throughout this light and humorous poem, a child tries to explain away why their face has gotten so dirty. They suggest everything from exploring dark caves and silver mines to eating blackberries right off the bush. Here are a few lines: 

I got it from crawling along in the dirt

And biting two buttons off Jeremy’s shirt.

I got it from chewing the roots of a rose

And digging for clams in the yard with my nose.

I got it from peeking into a dark cave

And painting myself like a Navajo brave.

Read more Shel Silverstein poems

Winter-Time by Robert Louis Stevenson 

This light-hearted children’s poem describes winter from a child’s perspective. The poet imbues the child speaker with a great deal of imagination as he describes what he sees, hears, and experiences in winter. For example: 

Close by the jolly fire I sit

To warm my frozen bones a bit;

Or with a reindeer-sled, explore

The colder countries round the door.

Throughout, Stevenson uses literary devices like juxtaposition, imagery, personification, alliteration (one of the most common devices in light verse), and more.

Read more Robert Louis Stevenson poems

Three Little Birds in a Row by Stephen Crane

Three Little Birds in a Row’ is a short and simple piece penned by American realist writer Stephen Crane. Crane is best known for his role in the realist/naturalist movement in the late 1800s and his publication of The Red Badge of Courage in 1893. But, he also wrote light verse. Here are a few lines from the poem: 

Three little birds in a row

Sat musing.

A man passed near that place.

Then did the little birds nudge each other.

He uses personification, alliteration, and more within this poem. The birds can talk to one another, judge people, and laugh, just like humans do. This should be entertaining to readers of all ages.

Explore more Stephen Crane poems

FAQs 

What is light verse?

Light verse is a type of poetry that engages with simple, every day, and highly relatable themes that are often humorous and entertaining. Most children’s poetry is categorized as light verse, as are poems that deal with “trivial” subject matter.

How do you write light verse?

To write a light poem, the author needs to pick a subject that is simple, easy to understand, and not too emotionally intense. For example, playing with a dog, shopping, meeting with family, or more. Light verse poems should use simple language, humor, and literary devices like alliteration.

What is an example of light verse? 

Hug O’ Warby Shel Silverstein is an example of light verse. It was published in 1974 in the collection Where the Sidewalk Ends. The poem is characteristic of the author’s work in that it is geared toward a younger audience. It encourages mutual respect and love rather than competition or violence.

Why is light verse important? 

Light verse is important because it provides lovers of poetry with light-hearted, humorous, and entertaining literature to read. Not all literary works can be serious, intense, and emotionally taxing. Sometimes, writers, and audiences, need a break from intense examinations of personal experiences and universal struggles.


Related Literary Terms 

  • Adventure Story:  tells the tale of a protagonist’s journey. They go on an adventure or quest: one that could be personal or geographical.
  • Beast Fable: also known as an animal tale, is a short story or long poem that uses animal characters to relay a moral or narrative. 
  • Chick Lit: a genre of literature that focuses on female protagonists. These stories are usually targeted at younger women and are described as “popular fiction.”
  • Comedy: a humorous and entertaining genre of literature, film, and television.
  • Fairy Tale: short stories that include fanciful and magical elements such as goblins, elves, fairies, and ogres.
  • Folklore: refers to stories that people tell. These include folk stores, fairy tales, urban legends, and more. 


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