Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest 2009
Congratulations to the winners of our 2009 humor poetry contest!
First Prize $1,359
Randy Cousteau, The Felching of the Oct’pus
Second Prize $764
Louis K. Lowy, Poetry Workshop (Mary had a little lamb)
Third Prize $338
Lenny Lianne, Hurl
Honorable Mention $72.95
- Janette Berry, She Sulks at Gravity
- Paul Hlava, Warning
- Johnson John, Song of a Nightingirl by Mrs. Grown Heats
- Benjamin Taylor Lally, Daddy Ditty
- M.S. Sukumaran Nair, Waste Band
- Rachel S. Neal, A Villanelle of Love and Sorrow
- John Poch, The Girl Who Loved TV
- L. Rigdon, F**k Global Warming and All You Damn Hippies
- Debra Shulkes, The Thick Nose
- Fara Spence, The Test
- Tammy Tillotson, The Book of POD: Psalm 69:1-18
- James K. Zimmerman, Score: Kipling 1, Keats 0
- H.L. Bessinger, My Mind Is A Wasteland: An Epic
- Kenzo Kon Dedao-Duozhu, In Bed With St. Ignatius These Late Antiquity Nights: A Manifesto on Aspiration
- Sarah Evans, Musings of a Deranged Sea Monkey
- Lamar Hedgepeth, The Greatest Poem Ever Written!
- Tim Kimbirk, Untitled (“Should I bring comparison…”)
- Todd Lee, Ode to Leah
- Barbara F. Lefcowitz, An April Love Song for You
- John McKernan, Dancing with a Corset
- Jesse Nieboer, The Breakup
- Jim O’Brien, I Hates the Rain
- Senyo Whyte, Preludes
- Graham Younger, Ode to Insight or Metaphor; or, Musical Nipples
Thanks to everyone who entered our 2009 Wergle Flomp Poetry Contest. We received 776 entries from poets who plumbed the depths of their souls, and other parts, to extrude some wonderfully awful verse.
This year, Wergle can claim the honor of outliving the nemesis that brought our satirical superhero into existence. Poetry.com, the largest vanity contest website, went bankrupt in April. Their parent company, Watermark Media, also operated the International Library of Poetry and JMW Publishing, among other literary scams. Their domain name has been sold to self-publisher Lulu.com, which plans to use the site as an amateur poetry forum. While less imaginative observers may blame the economy, we like to think that the folks in Owings Mills, MD simply cracked after eight years of bombardment by scatological parodies of "The Road Not Taken".
That said, there is much to humble the poetic ego in the Wergle Flomp Poetry Contest. Eliot, Shakespeare, Frost and Dickinson produced a critically revered and complex body of work, and yet our contestants are happy to reduce their oeuvre to one or two twisted catchphrases. Something to remember in those sleepless hours when you're upset that your poetry book ranks lower on Amazon.com than the Electronic Yodelling Pickle.
Some years, the first-prize winner stands out like...well, like a trumpetfish stuck in a cephalopod's blowhole. I knew Randy Cousteau's "The Felching of the Oct'pus" would be the one to beat, as soon as I read the title. First, here was an author who could use "felching" in a sentence (if you don't know what it is, you will soon), and second, it was about an octopus. What more do you need? Strangely charming and disgusting at the same time, this well-crafted formal poem tells the story of two undersea creatures who overcome species-incompatibility to find romantic satisfaction.
Louis K. Lowy's second-prize poem "Poetry Workshop (Mary had a little lamb)" is clever light verse that makes a serious point. Too often, I hear from writers whose original voice has been "workshopped" into oblivion.
"How could she?" someone said, "have a lamb?"
Another added, "She must have been scammed."
"Her lover was a beast," one shouted out, "a horrible man."
As the ending of Lowy's poem shows, when writers are encouraged to trust everyone else's opinion more than their own, they stop doing the work that they alone can do.
Lenny Lianne's third-prize poem "Hurl", a parody of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl", applies the Beat poet's distinctive language of excess to American junk food, rather than sex, drugs and lifestyle experimentation. Both Ginsberg and gluttony are already so over-the-top that many of our contestants find them to be easy targets. Lianne's poem stood out from similar efforts because of her wildly elaborate imagery, the hysteria interspersed with tender moments of nostalgia for the baby-boomer equivalent of Proust's madeleine:
...ah, Fatty, those were the days when white bread was king and SpaghettiOs were
as international as food would get,
when you trusted in Twinkies outlasting a nuclear blast and having a shelf life of
a thousand years.
However, our honorable mentions and finalists did not extend such a sense of reverence to classic authors, saints, the environment, or even, apparently, God. Check that your lightning rod is firmly affixed, and then enjoy their mangling of the Bible ("The Book of POD"), Sylvia Plath ("Daddy Ditty", by 2008 winner Benjamin Taylor Lally), Lord Byron ("She Sulks at Gravity"), William Blake ("The Thick Nose"), and no fewer than three hits on T.S. Eliot. I appreciated the contemporary touch added by John McKernan's "Dancing With a Corset", which mocks Billy Collins and his poem "Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes". I'd like to see more parodies of living authors...though now it's open season on yours truly. Hey, it means someone is reading my book.
Our 2010 contest is now open to entries through our online form. We've simplified the entry process. You no longer need to submit your humor poem to a vanity contest as a joke—just send it straight to us. We've also topped up the prize pool to $3,600, with a first prize of $1,500. As always, the deadline is April Fool's Day. Rip open a pack of Ding-Dongs, look deeply into your goldfish's eyes, and start thinking of new ways to make me laugh.
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.