Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest 2018
Congratulations to the winners of our 2018 humor poetry contest!
First Prize $1,000
Madeleine Jackman, The Swipe Sonnets
Second Prize $250
Kathy Keating, Clock Signal: The Medulla of the Device
Third Prize $150
Sarah Cannavo, The 5 Stages of Being on Hold
Honorable Mention $100
- Daniel Ari, If I Can Hear You Chew, I Have Fantasized About Your Death
- Laura Burrow, The Birthday Party
- Lori Jakiela, Former 90s Supermodel Cindy Crawford Says People Shouldn’t Worry About Aging
- Erin Kirsh, To the Man Sitting in Front of Me Who Had His Chair Pushed All the Way Back from Before Take Off for the Duration of the 10-Hour Flight
- Beatrice Lane-Smailes, My 5 Year Old Nephew Pushes My Buttons
- Jeanne Lutz, We Have Art, Nietzsche Said, So That We Shall Not Be Destroyed by the Truth
- Michael Meyerhofer, How Thirteen Famous Men Performed Cunnilingus
- Cayla Printz, Public Education
- Mick O Seasnain, What Only Parents Say
- R.D. Simmons, The Seagull
- Theresa Sowerby, Why Be Coy When You Could Be Pregnant?
- Nina Thilo, Shall We Go to the Seaside Dear?
Thanks to everyone who entered our 17th annual Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. (That's right, next year Wergle will be old enough to vote. Take back the House, Wergle!) 4,748 poets competed on hot topics in politics, travel, education, food, and modern love—essentially a New York Times Sunday edition but with more farting.
First-round screener Lauren Singer Ledoux performed her annual miracle of selecting about 125 semifinalists in record time, all while working as a sex therapist, mothering two photogenic dogs and an angry cat, and posting her hilariously surreal dreams on Facebook. Lauren also screens entries for our self-published book contest and short story/essay contest. She's first in line to be cloned when we have the technology. Final judge Jendi Reiter took time out from writing horror theology gay porn to determine this year's winners, and President-for-Life Adam Cohen generously dipped into the treasury to authorize two extra Honorable Mentions and a Third Prize.
As is fitting for a household with twice as many Amazon Echo devices as people, our top three poems all concern the vagaries of technology, from online dating to tech support. Good thing we didn't name our child "Alexa".
Lauren shares her thoughts on this year's entry pool:
"It's always a pleasure to have the privilege of reading the Wergle Flomp entries each year. While there are no shortage of current events—from Donald Trump's extracurricular activities to the baby names of the rich and famous—the best poems combine original content with the latest and up-to-datest. At a time when it'd be easy to formulate a funny, found poem out of our Twitter feed's trending topics, it's a breath of fresh air to happen upon a gem that seems to have birthed itself from its innovative author's own brain-juice. This year was not a disappointment. I was so thoroughly impressed and inspired by the level of ingenuity and hilarity that came through the contest this year that condensing down my favorites was my biggest challenge yet.
"Submissions that begged for epic eye-rolls? The usuals get ticked off on my 'Don't Do It' list of malarkey and poppycock. If you're a white dude (or dudette, or gender non-conforming dooder) speaking in a vernacular veering any which way towards cultural appropriation? Hard pass. Even harder pass if you're trying to be funny about it. While saggy butts and betraying bodies are the insult of the aging, super yawn. I've heard it all before. Unless you're giving me belly-laughs with those stretch-marks, I'm swiping right. In general, racism, sexism, transphobia, privilege-boasting without the teensiest attempt at sincere irony, body-shaming, or attempting-to-be-funny poems about politics (left or right, my friends) that spiral out into the fever dream of your soap-box agenda? I'm bored. Probably offended. Not interested.
"While squirrels have always been a favorite topic that weasels (squirrels?) its way into the random Wergle theme categories, this year noted a shortage of our fluffy-tailed tree-dwellers and brought on an influx of pigeon-hating poems. Something tells me a few too many of you got the ole' pigeon-poop treatment in your childhoods. Don't you know it's good luck?! In any case, it's always a hoot to be a part of the Wergle Flomp team and to peruse my way through the raucous minds of our participants. Already excited to see what next year brings!"
While the technology of courtship has become more sophisticated, pickup lines have not. Or so it would seem from first-prize winner Madeleine Jackman's "The Swipe Sonnets", a virtuoso sequence of satirical sonnets incorporating vulgar comments from real men on the Tinder dating app. Shakespeare's donkey-headed Bottom from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" looks like a real catch next to these dudes, whose self-confidence is inversely proportionate to their maturity.
Second-prize winner Kathy Keating's "Clock Signal: The Medulla of the Device" takes its inspiration from the 2017 discovery of an embarrassing bug in a widely used computer chip, which will cause many devices to stop functioning if not replaced. In the poem, corporate damage-control rhetoric degenerates into contradictory gibberish, with an upbeat yet threatening tone that will be familiar to cubicle slaves in any industry.
Third-prize winner Sarah Cannavo grieves the very modern trauma of trying to call your insurance company or cable provider, in her poem "The 5 Stages of Being On Hold". That's why, if you want to get in touch with Winning Writers, it's quickest to email, text, or passive-aggressively subtweet us. (If you use Facebook Messenger, we just assume you're a Russian bot.)
Our honorable mentions found humor in subjects such as the peculiar logic of children's conversations, the imagined sex lives of artists and sages, unwise beach vacations, and our too-carefully curated social media images. That kind of rhymes, actually. But you can do better. Our next contest is open now through April 1, 2019. Exercise your First Amendment rights while you still have them. And that's no joke!
The judges would also like to commend these finalists:
Susan Chambers, "Planning a Poetry Party with a Cheese Head of Billy Collins"
Helen Companion, "The Food Poisoning of J. Alfred Prufrock"
Vanessa Couto Johnson, "erasure of Etiquette"
Wendy Holborow, "The Highway Code of India"
Wayne Lee, "Stand-Up Whale"
Isabella Mansfield, "Local Woman Accidentally Terrorizes Target Customers With Noisy Clearance Halloween Decor That Won't Turn Off"
Everett Warner, "The Chronicle of Goose"
Sarah Brown Weitzman, "April Directed by Disney, Hitchcock and Craven"
Lauren Singer is an assistant judge of our Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest and North Street Book Prize, critiques poems, stories, and essays, and is 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. In 2015 she received her MSW at the University of Chicago, is a graduate of Bard College at Simon's Rock, and an attendee of the New York State Summer Writer's Institute. 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".
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.