Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest 2014
Congratulations to the winners of our 2014 humor poetry contest!
First Prize $1,000
Simon Hendrie, What Will You Say When Your Child Asks: “Why Didn’t You Invest in Eastern Poland?”
Second Prize $250
Nancy Pagh, What I Sometimes Think Other Poets’ Book Blurbs Must Say About Me
Honorable Mention $100
- David Amerman, I Always Hate Going In There
- Luke Archer, Massive Metaphysical Twat
- Janine Certo, Hampton Bay Progressive Wall Sconce
- Ayanda Dorsey, Cottage Cheese and STD’s
- Daniel Ferrara, Unemployment
- Ben Jones, Connor the Cunning Cartographer
- Alan Koban, Cleaning Up For the Guests
- Fred Longworth, The Sanitarian
- Jennifer Moore, Crapper’s Delight
- Aubrey Sonnenschein, Untitled (“I like to abbreve…”)
- Reuben Steenson, Monotony
Thanks to everyone who entered our 2014 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. As we hope you've realized by now, being funny is harder than it looks. (Looking funny, unfortunately, is easy. Be careful with those yearbook pictures.)
Fresh out of her first year of graduate school, our peerless assistant judge Lauren Singer delayed her summer vacation to read submissions from 4,484 contestants (a new record), which she narrowed down to 100 for final judge Jendi Reiter. Lauren would like to tell you about some things we never want to see again:
Parodies based on Poe, The Night Before Christmas, Yeats, and Frost: If you are going to have a "With Apologies To..." poem, it needs to be clever enough to back up the fact that it is based on a famous original. So many of these poets jumped ship somewhere in the middle and did not utilize any clever parodying qualities, and merely wrote poems that were completely separate from the originals. Just stealing the voice of a dead poet does not a good poem make!
Poems that I found particularly arduous to read: Poems about pooping, farting, vomiting, getting fat, having saggy boobs, tricking your husband so that he would stay with you, tricking your wife so that she would leave you, wrinkles, chocolate addiction, unoriginal limericks that began "There once was a man from Nantucket" that ended with "fuck it!", poems that invented their own language without a glossary and just translated as wan gibberish.
Poems that were offensive: Ones that embraced a pro-rape culture (there were more of these than you might think, and it was quite disheartening); poems that described women as objects; poems that led the reader to believe they were about women and then turned into poems about an object (odes to a car, boat, La-Z-Boy, golf club, burger, guitar, etc.); homophobic, sexist, xenophobic, racist poems, of which there were many; poems that mock a lifestyle in attempts to undermine it (making light of stay-at-home moms/dads, that sort of thing); poems that made light of mental illness, addiction, and recovery, in an offensive way as opposed to a self-deprecatingly humorous way.
"I'm getting so old" poems: These were by far the highest number of poems submitted this year. These have the ability to be funny, but more often than not there is SO much overlap. "I used to be so attractive, thin, energetic. Now I'm fat, wrinkly, and don't have sex. I can't bend over anymore, I can't sit up without grunting, I can't eat fried foods, I can't enjoy life because I'm over 60." These become tiring and disheartening after a while. There were a few that embraced an original voice and those made the cut, but the vast majority of poems about aging were nearly indistinguishable from each other.
Feeling squirrelly: There were well over a hundred poems solely about squirrels. This is merely a side note, as some of them were quite funny, but out of sheer curiosity, what the hell was it about squirrels this year? What is this obsession? Why are squirrels so dang poetic? Any squirrel poems that ended in a pun about nuts generally didn't make the cut.
Top prizewinner Simon Hendrie had the largest return on capital this year with his highly quotable poem "What Will You Say When Your Child Asks: 'Why Didn't You Invest in Eastern Poland?'" Starting with an unintentionally comical headline from a financial advertorial, the poem takes the scenario to a higher level of absurdity, with a dead-on parody of the thriller genre starring a sinister nine-year-old and his cowed papa. This poem was pitch-perfect, no longer than it needed to be, and on a topic we don't often see in this contest.
Nancy Pagh's found-poem "What I Sometimes Think Other Poets' Book Blurbs Must Say About Me" came in such a close runner-up that we added a Second Prize to our original set of prizes. With winsome humility, Pagh collects flowery squibs from other writers' back covers and turns them into negative statements about how her poetry falls short. Stripped of attribution, the blurbs in their original positive format sound generic and even nonsensical. It's in keeping with the Wergle Flomp contest's original mission of puncturing inflated praise from vanity contests. We commend her for finding a fresh angle on poems about the poetry business, a subject that's too often treated in a cutesy and predictable way.
Our honorable mention poets impressed us with the range of their interests: philosophy in a nutshell, the spiritual implications of wall sconces, exquisite ways of being bored, and the perils of keeping your armpits or your house too clean. Most of these selections are safe for work, but you may not want to read them during lunch.
Read the press release announcing the 2014 awards.
Our 2015 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest is now open for entries through April 1, with a top prize of $1,000. Always free, never easy. Make us laugh...or the squirrels will get you.
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.
Lauren Singer is an assistant judge of our Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest and North Street Book Prize, and a past judge of our Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest. She is a native New Yorker living in Western Massachusetts. Her poetry has been published in Nerve House, Bareback, Feel the Word, Read This, Kosmosis, One Night Stanzas, and other literary magazines across the country. An attendee of the New York State Summer Writer's Institute, she is a graduate of Bard College at Simon's Rock and received her MSW at the University of Chicago in 2015. She has self-published three chapbooks and received an honorable mention in the 2011 Wergle Flomp contest. In addition to her creative interests, Lauren works as a mental health clinician and therapist in Holyoke, MA. Lauren prides herself on her wealth of useless knowledge, namely of nineties R&B lyrics, and she can pretty much quote "The X-Files".