Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest 2015
Congratulations to the winners of our 2015 humor poetry contest!
First Prize $1,000
Cathy Bryant, Sexual Positions for Those No Longer Young
Second Prize $250
Susan White, English Teacher’s Daughter
Honorable Mention $100
- Derek Andersen, You Construct Intricate Rituals Which Allow You to Touch The Skin of Other Men
- Andrew Coe, Sesame Street Blues
- Anna Cranage Conathan, Out of Sync at the Kitchen Sink
- Luke A. Cooke, Singing Assembly
- Armand De Asis, 5-Hydroxy-tryptophan as potential treatment for L-DOPA-induced impulsivity as measured by a delay-discounting task in a 6-OHDA lesion-induced rodent model of Parkinson's Disease
- Christopher Greathouse, Problem 6
- Griffin Harris, Ode to a North Woods August (Sort Of)
- C.L. Holland, The Scunthorpe Problem
- Kevin Riel, Against the Campaign to Stomp Out “Awesome”
- Art Rosch, The Savior, Just in Time
- Jason Stajduhar, Artificial Intelligence
- Christopher Wagner, Paradise Soiled
Thanks to everyone who entered our 2015 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. Before the lightning bolt strikes us down for our irreverent tastes in poetry, we would like to share the results with you. Read quickly, and don't stand under a tree.
While completing her masters' degree in social work at the University of Chicago, our tireless assistant judge Lauren Singer read over 4,400 entries, which she narrowed down to about 200 for final judge Jendi Reiter. We congratulate Lauren on her achievement, and hope that her clients benefit from her work ethic and sense of humor, as much as we have.
The judges' essays from previous years will tell you all you need to know about our pet peeves. Ageism, sexism, classism, fat-phobia, love poems to cars and Cheez Whiz, drunk Santas, the road not taken, tourist jokes about "natives"? Quoth the judges, "Nevermore!" This year, we add a word of advice for authors whose poems avoided the obvious pitfalls but drove around in circles after that.
A good premise is just the beginning. The poem has to develop the initial joke, not merely present it and repeat it. See, for example, our honorable mention winner Art Rosch's "The Savior, Just in Time", which starts with a ridiculously blasphemous scene worthy of Monty Python, and builds it up to a punch line with a clever theological reference. Another winning strategy is for the characters to undergo an emotional shift, as in Anna Cranage Conathan's honorable mention poem "Out of Sync at the Kitchen Sink", where a wife and mother's exhaustion with her emotional labors pushes her to express her real desire with a masculine brashness.
If it's a list poem, like our first-prize winner Cathy Bryant's "Sexual Positions for Those No Longer Young", the listed items should grow in absurdity and employ a variety of sounds, images, and feeling-tones. Bryant's poem met the all-important Winning Writers editors' test: Will we be quoting catchphrases from this poem across the breakfast table for years to come? "Darling, darling, let's try—Servicing the Caravan,/Polishing the Bevelled Edge, The Newt,/The Plumber's Lunch Break, The Mothy Woollen..." The title notwithstanding, this poem wasn't so much a joke about sexual decline in middle age, as a tender tribute to the private language that gets created in a long-term partnership.
Similarly, a top-quality parody doesn't rely solely on the humorous mismatch between the original text and the new topic. Nor does it borrow a familiar song or poem simply as a structure to hang its hat on, without engaging the two texts in any meaningful dialogue.
Our second-prize winner Susan White's "English Teacher's Daughter", a perfectly singable parody of Loretta Lynn's country song "Coal Miner's Daughter", presents grammatical rules through the unfolding narrative of rural kids in tattered clothes, enjoying the freedom of the outdoors, but never forgetting "when to say that and when to say which". The poem keeps the original song's spirit of "poor but proud", while turning the words around to poke fun at the type of pride to which poets are prone. We may have maxed out our credit cards on grad school, but gol-durnit, we know the difference between "less" and "fewer"!
Meanwhile, Kevin Riel's honorable mention poem "Against the Campaign to Stomp Out 'Awesome'" got points for choosing a target (Robert Hass's "Meditation at Lagunitas") that was atypical yet known to the judges, and double extra points for using parody to ask some serious questions about poetry and elitism. Robert Frost parodies usually make us groan because there aren't many fresh ways to re-word the well-trodden syntax of "The Road Not Taken" or "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening". Christopher Greathouse's "Problem 6" smartly bypassed this problem by transporting the characters and setting of the latter poem into a whole different genre, the exam question fact pattern, whose voice and grammar are quite far from Frost's measured rhymes—13.7 miles away, in fact.
Our other honorable mentions covered such pressing issues as adultery on Sesame Street, male bonding, over-active Internet filters, the place of the fly and the mosquito in God's creation, how not to pick up girls at a neuroscience conference, what small talk would sound like if people were honest, and the wheels on the bus that go round and round, round and round, round and round...stop, please stop.
The 2016 Wergle Flomp Poetry Contest is now open for entries. Top prize $1,000, deadline April Fool's Day. Entry is free. And you don't even have to use your inside voice.
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 sex and relationship therapist and runs a private practice out of Northampton, MA. Her book-length poetry manuscript, Raised Ranch, will be published by Game Over Books in August of 2025. She prides herself on her wealth of useless pop culture knowledge, namely of nineties R&B lyrics, and she can pretty much quote "The X-Files".
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 interviews in RoundPier and Lammergeier.
Photo by Ezra Autumn Wilde