Tailgaters – Uncoupled Couplets – Second Comings

9781931082495Once, in search of Alaska, I took a cruise ship up the inside passage along the North American coastline.  To while away the hours on the boat I went down to the eclectic library where I borrowed a copy of John Hollander’s entertaining selection, American Wits: an Anthology of Light Verse. There I found a selection from William Cole’s Uncoupled Couplets. It was my first introduction to what someone (reputed to be the poet, Miller Williams) named  Tailgaters. A Tailgater is a rhymed couplet in any metre that uses a well known line of poetry followed by a parodic original second line. The inventor of the form is supposed to be the American poet and wit, Richard Armour, whose Punctured Poems: Famous First and Infamous Second Lines (1982) contained a selection, some of which are included below. There are those who would argue that the form has been around even longer, citing a poem by Phyllis McGinley:

When I have fears that I may cease to be,
I have another drink, or two or three.

Further research (see the LINKS section below) introduced me to a range of these poems which, in homage to W. B. Yeats, I prefer to call Second Comings. I am including my own modest introduction to the genre here, based on that celebrated Yeats poem:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The roller-coaster goes higher and higher.

xxx

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold,
Since Playboy ditched its naked centrefold.

xxx

The ceremony of innocence is drowned,
Yeats has taken lessons from Ezra Pound.

xxx

The darkness drops again but now I know
The electricity was bound to go.

xxx

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Is now the media’s iconoclast.

 

Should you like to include your own contribution, fill in the comment box below.

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Punctured Poems by Richard Armour

Summer is icumeen in;
Mix the tonic and the gin

xxx

Water, water, everywhere;
The plumbing badly needs repair.

xxx

To err is human, to forgive divine.
Some errors I forgive, though, quickly. . . . Mine..

xxx

Jenny kissed me when we met
Not oft such quick results I get.

xxx

I celebrate myself, and sing myself.
My picture’s there, my bust’s upon the shelf.

 

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Uncoupled Couplets by William Cole

When my love swears that she is made of truth
All I can do is blame it on her youth

xxx

Whenas in silks my Julia goes
The outline of her girdle shows.

xxx

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may
But take your little pill each day

xxx

There is a garden in her face
Her dermatologist has the case

xxx

Jenny kissed me when we met
The cold I caught is with me yet.

xxx

When the hounds of spring are on winter’s traces
The rich take off for warmer places

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Tailgaters by J. Patrick Lewis

Leigh Hunt
Jenny kissed me when we met
Drooling like a bachelorette

Robert Herrick
A sweet disorder in the dress
Is evidence that she said yes..

W.H. Auden
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Turn on the gas, I’m out of methadone.

***

First published in Light, 2015

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Tailgaters by Bob McKenty

The art of losing isn’t hard to master
(The Cubs are a perennial disaster).

xxx

Home is the place where, when you have to go there
They make you mow the lawn or shovel snow there.

xxx

Stone walls do not a prison make
(But they deter a prison break).

xxx

If ever two were one, then surely we
Amoebas were. (No longer; now we’re three.)

xxx

My heart leaps up when I behold
The beauty in the centerfold.

xxx

I weep for Adonais. He is dead.
He left me nothing. Weep for me instead.

xxx

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Use meter, rhyme, and humor when you write.

***

First published in Light, 2015

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Tailgaters by Anthony Harrington

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.
There is, dumbass. It’s called a wrecking ball.

xxx

The time you won your town the race
I lost fifty at the bookie’s place.

xxx

I taste a liquor never brewed
But never wind up wholly stewed.

***

First published in Light, 2015

 

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Tailgaters by Dean Blehert

Fear no more the heat o’ the Sun:
With lotion, bask ‘til you’re well done.

xxx

Had we but world enough and time,
We’d say “I am” and never “I’m”.

xxx

The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
Like readers plodding through an elegy.

xxx

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
No way!

xxx

She dwelt among the untrodden ways;
Her parents said, “It’s just a phase.”

xxx

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
Viagra puts the hump back in your heap.

xxx

A shudder in the loins engenders there
Stains that won’t wash out of underwear.

 

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Tailgaters by Bob Mezey

I walk through the long schoolroom questioning;
The kids don’t seem to know a goddamned thing.

xxx

The One remains, the many change and pass.
I am the One; I never went to class.

xxx

They that have power to hurt and will do none
Are missing out on every kind of fun.

xxx

If winter comes, can spring be far behind?
Shelley’s searching question—what a mind.

xxx

I should have been a pair of ragged claws—
Think of the royalties, think of the applause.

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Tailgaters by Ralph La Rosa

A narrow Fellow in the Grass
Exposed his slim—seductive—Ass.

***

Crumbling is not an instant’s Act—
Please be patient. Use some Tact!

***

I heard a Fly buzz—when I died—
Le petit mort—oh—what—a—Ride!

First published as Emily D’s Down and Dirty Tailgaters in Asses of Parnassus, August 2017

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More Tailgaters

Ice Cream Line

I dwell in possibility –
Shall I have two scoops – or three?

Barbara Lydecker Crane

***

New Model

Where ignorant armies clash by night,
well-informed armies wait for light.

Esther Greenleaf Murer

***

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LINKS

An article on Tailgaters from Light Poetry Magazine.

Seventeen pages of Tailgaters from the Eratosphere site on Able Muse.

A large selection of Tailgaters from Dean Blehert.

A large selection and discussion of Tailgaters (also called Gwynnlets).

“In Memory of Bill Cole”, a poem by Seamus Heaney.

 

9781931082495

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