Contests : Wergle Flomp Free Poetry Contest : Past Winners : 2008 : Judge's Comments
Thanks to everyone who entered our 2008 Wergle Flomp Poetry Contest. We received 838 entries, all of which deserved to be printed in a handsome leather-bound anthology, yours for just $59.95. Would you like your poem on a bronze plaque? A necktie? Sky-written across Kansas? For the right price...
Poetry.com might flatter your poetic ego with such expensive come-ons, but here at Winning Writers our stringent quality-control standards remain the same. (Don't worry, no bunnies were harmed in the judging of this contest.) We're seeking a special kind of bad poem, one where a high degree of craftsmanship was lavished on something utterly pointless, like Claes Oldenburg's 21-foot safety pin, only easier to fit in our mailbox.
Our contestants remained fascinated with the four F's: food, farts, Frost, and, well, you know the other one. There is something about pork that particularly inspires your imagination. While I like a good castration poem as much as the next person, I'm eager to read work that explores beyond the well-mined absurdities of our oversexed commercial culture. Honorable mention winner Andrew Periale's "Mad Personal Assistant's Song", for instance, turns a Lewis Carroll rhyme into an apocalyptic political satire, while the inimitable Rick Lupert's "Oh My Thingies" builds a nonsensical list in a childlike voice whose naiveté has a sinister edge.
"Word-salad" nonsense poems were also well-represented among the finalists. I find these a refreshing break from the usual themes, but writing a good one is harder than you might think. I look for poems with a rich vocabulary ("My asthma has miasmas, Olaf"), dramatic tension ("Cheese Squirrels really can fly/There is a bug in my Starbucks Chai") and some emotion, even if I can't quite say what it is ("Tell me, Steve do you/Wonder why the squid ignores/you?/Why its foobly stare/makes you feel blah!.").
When I find myself quoting catchphrases from a Wergle entry at inappropriate moments (as if there were appropriate ones), I know I've got a winner. "Watching bathe multi-dudes", from Benjamin Taylor Lally's first-prize poem "First Edition, 2008", has joined "spung-buzz" and "Keep your f—in' hair outta my Cheerios" in the Winning Writers household lexicon. Lally's elaborate Walt Whitman parody mashes up familiar quotations with modern pop-culture references, while consistently maintaining a Whitmanesque grandiose voice and lust for life. I like how this poem builds momentum with ever-more-extravagant claims for the narrator's genius, yet never breaks character. Though it is recognizably a parody, it stands alone as a humorous poem in its own right:
I am a convenience store clerk, singing about
Our second-prize poem, Julie Porter's "The Rape of the Cock", retells the saga of John Wayne Bobbitt's truncated member in the style of Alexander Pope, or perhaps of his modern-day devotee, Kyle McDonald. The classical references made me wonder whether Kyle, our 2007 War Poetry Contest winner, was revealing his bawdier side. When our winners start to parody each other, we know we've created a truly special community.
Things, I am a financial analyst. I am a philosopher—I explain platitudes.
I am a singing robot maker and
that guy on the infomercials with a moustache
Who sells Oxy-Glow—I display multi-tools.
I am a farmer and a banker and a knight.
"But that's not possible," you say.
"How can you be all of those jobs?
You must be totally awesome.
But tax-time must suck."
Sooja Jones received third prize for "Daft Idylls", a monumental riff on Wordsworth's "Daffodils" in which a fawning representative of Poetry.com offers fame and fortune for the narrator's poetic flatulence, or "borborygmi", to put it more eloquently. Jones gets a lot of mileage out of a one-joke sketch because of the ease with which he writes formal verse.
Our 2009 contest is now open to entries through our online form. As always, the deadline is April Fool's Day. Make us laugh. Make us cry. Just don't make the bunny go blind.