Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest 2011
Congratulations to the winners of our 2011 humor poetry contest!
First Prize $1,500
John M. Harris Jr., The Flight Line Commedia
Second Prize $800
Charles Doyle, T’was the Week After Doomsday
Third Prize $400
Alicia Ruskin, Speaking of Speaking
Honorable Mention $75
- Stuart Anderson and Nancy Lee, Frosty the Poet
- Janette Berry, Menopausal Rhapsody
- Paula Camacho, My Last Husband
- Jeff Cooke, Auditions Shall Proceed to Railcar #5
- Megan Elaine Davis, A Psalm of Mice
- Wayne Edwards, Bumper Sticker
- Randy Gross, The Balls
- Kathleen Lynch, Soaps Fan
- J.S. McTuile, A Hipster Love Sonnet Sequence (Or Whatever)
- Jennifer Moore, The Don with the Luminous Prose
- Lauren Singer, regarding eggplant
- Amoja Sumler, My Candidate of Choice
- Catherine Affleck, The Loyalty of the Sock Questioned
- Emmalina Bear, Calabration Hooligan
- John Crowley, Three Little Pigs
- Dale Dewoody, How to Write a Poem for a Journal
- Alice Friman, Riding High
- Corey Ginsberg, Sex with my Ex
- Tim Goldstone, I Miss You But There Is Such a Thing as Banana Gin
- George Grace, Bagging It
- Danica Green, My Muse is at a Sci-Fi Convention in Reykjavik
- Rick Lupert, Rules for Poetry
- Dennis McLelland, Gibberish from the Tenth Dimension
- Hope, The ASBO Kid
- John Nuck, No Matter What Position You’re In
- Marilyn Gear Pilling, Billy Collins Interviewed on Stage at Chautauqua
- Lauren Walker, Untitled (“Your Image…”)
Thanks to everyone who entered our 2011 Wergle Flomp Poetry Contest. Entries this year topped out around 2,300. My optometrist thanks you, as well.
What am I looking for (besides a dark room to lie down in) as the sole, all-powerful judge of the Internet's most lucrative humor poetry contest? Poems that are intended to be humorous, for one thing. Please, please read the rules. And don't send me weird file format attachments: .mht? .bwd? WTF? It bruises my feminist ego to ask Adam for tech support.
The road to Wergle Flomp stardom, however, must be paved with more than good intentions. Here are some more themes that I don't find as funny as you did. You will benefit from reading this list. Trust me. I only want what is best for you.
I see too many poems based on a gag that I've read in a hundred "funny" greeting cards. Old folks lamenting their loss of attractiveness. Women who crave chocolate and become raving bitches once a month. True, some winners have touched on these themes, but they're not fresh enough to be the main source of comedy in the poem.
Been There, Done That:
No more drunk Santas. No more "Raven" or "Prufrock" parodies. We received some good poems that I reluctantly kept at semi-finalist status because they were retreads of ideas that past winners had already thoroughly explored with rubber gloves and a speculum.
Don't use "gay" as a slur. Don't use "whore" at all. No matter how much you need the rhyme.
When You (Don't) Care Enough to Send the Very Best:
Light verse needn't mean lightweight. If it took you 15 seconds to write this poem, I probably won't spend more time on it, either. Humor poetry is a delicate blend of timing, cultural relevance, and linguistic agility, with bass notes of absurdity and finished off with an aroma of antisocial tendencies. Getting this balance right may require even more effort than a serious poem.
Perhaps a first for the Wergle Flomp contest, all three of our top winners were relatively clean. (Their poems, that is; I can't speak for them personally.) Though I cherish our tradition of violating community standards, there was really no doubt that John M. Harris Jr.'s "The Flight Line Commedia" was worthy of first-place honors. This homage to Dante's Inferno takes us on a witty and instructive journey through the modern-day hell of air travel, where rude patrons and penny-pinching executives alike receive their perfect come-uppance. Harris sustains the difficult rhyme-scheme of terza rima in natural, contemporary language over the entire course of this epic.
Proof that everything goes better with zombies, second-prize winner Charles Doyle's "T'was the Week After Doomsday" kept me laughing with a fresh—okay, raw—take on a classic Christmas poem. This much-parodied work by Clement C. Moore was a candidate for my "retired" list. Why did Doyle's version stand out? Paradoxically, because he stayed so close to the original, in terms of phrasing and formal regularity, but changed the resonance of every image from charming to grotesque. The manic glee of this poem was infectious as a cannibal's bite. I should get that looked at, shouldn't I?
Alicia Ruskin's third-prize poem "Speaking of Speaking" was full of subtle, flarfy goodness. Here's an example of a humor poem in which timing is everything. Saturated with conference speeches, business meetings, status updates, newsfeeds and the like, we are accustomed to tuning out so much of what we hear, that we may not notice when an expected cliche takes a surreal or sinister turn. After a couple of these not-quite-right sentences, though, suddenly we begin paying attention and realize just how strange our collective consciousness has become, how elusive the logical connections between our beliefs.
Our honorable mentions included standout parodies of Robert Browning, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Edward Lear, the rock group Queen, and the ubiquitous Edgar Allen Poe. Another Wergle Flomp favorite, Robert Frost, was mocked in a truly definitive way. These writers also tackled important topics such as Sauron's presidential candidacy and how to form a meaningful relationship with an eggplant.
My wishlist for the 2012 contest: More parodies of works we haven't yet seen in this contest, particularly contemporary ones. Reach beyond the Victorian and early Modernist poets we all studied in high school. More poems that use satire to make an original and socially relevant point. More butt sex.
Well...one out of three ain't bad.
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.