Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest 2003
Congratulations to the winners of our 2003 humor poetry contest!
First Prize $817.70
Callaghan Howard, An Ode to Buns
- Rob Daugherty, Roses Can Open in the Darkness
- Megan Gilmore, A Love Letter from Prague, the Capital of Amsterdam
- David Greaves, Chipmonks and Chimps
- Wilhelmina Hemmingway, The Most Exquisite Corpse
- Lenny Lianne, The Worst Lamb
- Mark Orr, Vanity! All’s is Vainity!
- Brian L. Perkins, Black Market Human Organs
- Joseph Spensley, Bolox
- Kevin Wohler, Bad Fry
What makes a poem so bad it's good? This is the question that I, channeling the spirit of Wergle Flomp, had to answer. Hilarious awfulness comes in many shapes and sizes, like the stars of Ms. Howard's first-prize poem. "An Ode to Buns" displayed imagination, attention to craft, and one indelibly silly image after another. I laughed every time I read it. What that says about me, I don't know.
One hallmark of bad verse is a tone-deaf mismatch between style and subject matter. Flowery metaphors, rhyming couplets, intonations of Deep Meaning are hitched to french fries and farts. (In my mind, I kept hearing "Bad Fry" being read by Homer Simpson.) Poems such as "Bolox" and "The Most Exquisite Corpse" wickedly mimic the self-important obscurity and angst of some contemporary experimental poetry. This year's honorees also include a T.S. Eliot parody ("The Worst Lamb").
Our 704 entrants submitted every variety of gibberish, doggerel, and satire, many of them concerning the treachery of vanity contests. Some advice for future contestants:
Pedophilia is not funny. Poop can be funny, but it's not as funny as you think it is. While I'm not against sex and profanity in a poem, it often functions as a cheap substitute for wit. Writing pure nonsense that's also funny is surprisingly challenging. Many of the nonsense entries seemed hastily dashed off, without the rhythm and scansion that make Wergle's "Flubblebop" stand out. What I was looking for was some degree of poetic talent, employed in the service of an utterly unworthy aim.
Thanks again to all our entrants. You are the brave gadflies on the bloated buns of Poetry.com. Yim yam widdley woooo!
Jendi Reiter is vice president of Winning Writers, editor of The Best Free Literary Contests, and oversees the Winning Writers literary contests. Jendi is the author of the short story collection An Incomplete List of My Wishes (Sunshot Press, 2018), the novel Two Natures (Saddle Road Press, 2016), the poetry collections Made Man (Little Red Tree Publishing, 2022), Bullies in Love (Little Red Tree Publishing, 2015), and A Talent for Sadness (Turning Point Books, 2003), and the award-winning poetry chapbooks Swallow (Amsterdam Press, 2009) and Barbie at 50 (Cervena Barva Press, 2010). Awards include a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artists' Grant for Poetry, the 2016 New Letters Prize for Fiction, the 2016 Rainbow Award for Best Gay Contemporary Fiction, the 2015 Wag's Revue Poetry Prize, the 2013 Little Red Tree International Poetry Prize, the 2012 Betsy Colquitt Award for Poetry from Descant magazine, the 2011 James Knudsen Editor's Prize in Fiction from Bayou Magazine, the 2011 OSA Enizagam Award for Fiction, the 2010 Anderbo Poetry Prize, and second prize in the 2010 Iowa Review Awards for Fiction. Jendi's work has appeared in Poetry, The New Criterion, Mudfish, Passages North, Cutthroat, Best American Poetry 1990, and many other publications. See their interview in RoundPier.