Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest 2016
Congratulations to the winners of our 2016 humor poetry contest!
First Prize $1,000
S. Michael Wilson, Dick Candles
Second Prize $250
Christina Myers, Tampon Bullet, Direct Hit
Honorable Mention $100
- Danny Caine, The Ideal Budweiser Customer Watches a Budweiser Commercial
- Sarah Crowe, The Ballad of the Social Media Machine
- Laura Docter, Once Upon a Vagina
- Michael Forester, Gomorrah’s Sins
- Ralph Gagliardo, Poker After Dark
- Debra McQueen, Bad Buddha
- George Northrup, Ulysses of Astoria
- Michelle Reiter, Untitled (“The dog and I are watching the debate…”)
- Garry Somers, Profanity - (lalochezia)
- Vicki Wilke, Note to the Substitute Teacher
Thanks to everyone who entered our 15th annual Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. 4,834 contestants made us laugh, cringe, scratch our heads, and look over our shoulders for an angry deity with a lightning bolt. We tried to give equal offense to all belief systems and genders, but not kick anyone when they were down. The best of the worst are now online for your enjoyment.
First-round screener Lauren Singer took time out from her important work of providing mental health services in the Pioneer Valley and managing the 2016 campaign of Hillary Kitten & Floor Potato. She passed a shortlist of about 75 poems to final judge Jendi Reiter.
Lauren shares some impressions of this year's entries:
"As is the case with every year that I have had the privilege of judging for Wergle Flomp, it is hard to read through 5,000 poems and not notice some ongoing themes. Take 2014, for example, where I managed to tally-up well over two hundred poems centered just around squirrels! What was that about? It seems that given the times, the trends, and the political climate of our current world, we would be hard-pressed to not overlap our ideas from time to time. After all, that platitude about innovation exists for a reason: 'If you've thought it, it already exists on the Internet.' Wergle Flomp is a testament to that.
"While we had the typical poems ranging from zombie take-overs to dystopian apocalypse, lowbrow digs at ex-partners, sneering sarcastic quips at the expense of millennials, and my ever-favorite litanies against aging, the over-arching motif of Wergle Flomp 2016 was...wait for it...our upcoming American election! Given the constant media frenzy overflowing from every possible outlet, it's no wonder we had so many entries related to Hillary's pantsuits and Trump's tiny hands; tongue-in-cheek references to lesser evils and Hitler-like comparisons. But what was most lacking from the majority of these poems was, more often than not, wit and originality.
"Yes, yes we know. It is the job of our public to make mockery of politicians, to caricature those that take themselves too seriously, but honestly? If I never have to read one more poem about Trump's comb-over or Hillary's email scandal, it won't be too soon. The real problems here were not the reference to the topical—of course those come up, how could they not?—but the fact that attempts at parody, political discourse, and satire often turned into a cliché summary of everything we already know about our most revered (or despised) current candidates. Instead of observational narrative on every stereotype already documented, why not an elaboration or an inventive 'what-if' format? Our political poems this year were hyperbolic and fantastical, yes, much like our candidates themselves. But we missed out on opportunities for real novel creativity on most accounts.
"Lastly, lackluster poetry usually has something in common: either it's too long or it's too short. If your poem starts really strong and then just seems to end mid-stanza without packing a one-two punch, it’s going to leave your reader feeling disappointed. No cigarette after that tryst, you know? On the other hand, if your poem has been rattling on for eight pages and you keep continue to feed us the punch-line with the assumption that your audience hasn't already figured out your intention a thousand words ago, you're going to bore your reader. There's nothing worse than tuning out of a piece half-way through, especially when it started out with good potential. So make sure these babies are edited, polished, and perfected."
Parallels were the order of the day in this year's list. S. Michael Wilson's first-prize poem "Dick Candles", a riff on a suggestive novelty gift, finds its distaff-side partner in runner-up Christina Myers's "Tampon Bullet, Direct Hit", a compendium of comically humiliating anecdotes, while Laura Docter's rhyming saga "Once Upon a Vagina" brings male and female parts together for a romantic rebellion against purity culture. Debra McQueen's "Bad Buddha", about a meditation student who "is Buddhist like a Mafioso is Catholic", shares the sacrilegious stage with Michael Forrester's "Gomorrah's Sins", a tour de force of double-entendres about a vicar and his favorite organ player.
Vicki Wilke's "Note to the Substitute Teacher" and Garry Somers' "Profanity – (lalochezia)" put a brave face on the challenges of civilizing our little darlings. Sarah Crowe's "The Ballad of the Social Media Machine", Danny Caine's "The Ideal Budweiser Customer Watches a Budweiser Commercial", and Michelle Reiter's Untitled ("The dog and I are watching the debate...") are perfectly pitched imitations of the hysterical trivia that floods us from the media. I hope you will retweet this, fellow human!
Bearing the sole prize for parody this year on his heroic shoulders, George Northrup's "Ulysses of Astoria" shovels his driveway while channeling the spirit of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Finally, Ralph Gagliardo treats us to some old-fashioned groaners about Dracula and friends playing "Poker After Dark". Don't raise the stake! (Ba-dum-bum.)
"Dick Candles" surged ahead of our other favorites because it didn't stop with the initial joke premise, but creatively expanded on it, at just the right length. The humor builds as the speaker's language becomes more florid and sensuous, moving from embarrassment to excitement as he imagines different scenarios for making use of these phallus-shaped illumination devices. Plus, we think it would be a great sports-commentator name: "Reporting live from Super Bowl 50, it's Dick Candles!"
"Tampon Bullet, Direct Hit" was like a modern-day "I Love Lucy" clips reel, with one after another cringe-making and relatable social gaffes. From the feminine product projectile that hits her junior-high crush in the chest, to losing her shirt in the car-wash vacuum when a cute guy walks by, our heroine is still a winner as long as she can laugh at herself.
Our 2017 contest is now open for entries through April Fool's Day, with a top prize of $1,000. Unlike a presidential campaign, it's always free, and the results will make you smile. Start writing!
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