Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest 2019
Congratulations to the winners of our 2019 humor poetry contest!
First Prize $1,000
Jody Mason, Failure to Triangulate
Second Prize $250
Taylor Richard, At a Meeting of the Queer Women Filmmaker’s Association
Third Prize $150
Zach Klebaner, Sestina: Bruh!
Honorable Mention $100
- Henry Crawford, Making an Auto Insurance Claim
- Jo Angela Edwins, This Film Has Been Edited for Content
- David Galef, Lewis Carroll’s Song at Newark Airport
- Reuven Goldfarb, Visiting Empire Haven
- Jackie Hostetler, Winter 2019: The De-Evolution of the Snow Day
- Kathy Keating, My Tenure (Clock Signal: The Aftermath)
- Lee Kisling, We’re Sorry
- Shawn Klimek, Where Pixies Relax
- Melissa Morano, State of the Uterine
- Linda Muhlhausen, The Rhyme of the Ancient Barbie In Five Parts
- Eylie Sasajima, reflections on a car radio set to scan
- Sarah Totton, Contingency Plans
Thanks to everyone who entered our 18th annual Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. You may be wondering, how does such a venerable literary institution choose its honorees from the 5,539 poets who competed? When the July days stretch out long and hot as a character in judge Jendi Reiter's latest gay romance, we crank up the two air conditioners in the converted barn of our Victorian haunted house, put on our matching Poop Emoji hats, and read the finalists aloud to discover what makes us laugh, Bruh!
We would still be at this task, were it not for first-round screener Lauren Singer Ledoux, Facebook celebrity pet mom and sex therapist, who sacrificed her July 4th weekend to select 150 favorites from the steaming slush pile. Lauren says of this year's entries:
"As always, the opportunity to sift through the Wergle Flomp selections is a privilege I don't take lightly. Not only do I feel great grandiosity in being the determining force of what is and is not decidedly funny, I also get an inside look at a broader social consciousness: y'all love to write about what's going on in the world. Some of you do it with more grace and poise than others, and if you manage to make it funny, well golly, that's gold.
"Completely unsurprisingly, there were a monumental amount of Trump submissions, but re-hashing tired Tweets and reminding us of the caricature in power isn't exactly innovative. Political poems only passed the bar if they managed to make me laugh AND introduced unique narratives. Decidedly hard to do, given we are basically living in a satire article.
"Speaking of satire, as usual, parodies of overused classical poems provided no epiphanies. Save for one Prufrock-ian prom-date, these ultimately landed with a yawn. What I did see in big quantity this year was a haul of formal poetry that was legitimately funny. Sonnets, Sestinas, and Haiku, oh my! There is always abundance in formal poetry, but this year, our entrants went above and beyond to inject a little levity into the poems that relied on structural stanza-making.
"While this year's submissions were noticeably void of thematic squirrels (only two that I counted!), the voices of the everyday observers were the poems that stuck out the most. As a lover of minutiae and the mundane, I especially appreciated those of you who explored ordinary, everyday things and gave them tangible characteristics that were both funny and poignant. These ranged in topics from grocery lines to food trends, from weddings to births, the relatable conundrum of searing self-doubt, and the undeniable pickle of receiving the wrong text. When paired with the exploration of vigilant details and hilarious conclusions, these poems topped the charts and were most memorable.
"Once again, I thank you for participating in Wergle Flomp this year and look forward to what 2020 has in store. This was, by far, the most difficult year in paring down my favorites, and I thank you for providing such comic relief at a time when laughter feels most necessary. Love to you all!"
The evolving etiquette—or lack thereof—of modern communications technology remains a fertile subject for our humorists. Online encounters seem to generate an instant, awkward intimacy that can fade as quickly and mysteriously as it began.
Such is the case in Jody Mason's first-prize poem "Failure to Triangulate", a uniquely 21st-century meet-cute-that-wasn't, sparked when the narrator starts receiving messages for the man who had her phone number before her. Soon she's paying overdue medical bills for a stranger, praying for someone she knows only as "Dick Licker", and wondering how to disentangle her identity from its bureaucratic merger with another.
Taylor Richard's second-prize poem "At a meeting of the Queer Women Filmmaker's Association" affectionately satirizes a social scene that would be quite familiar in Winning Writers' hometown of Northampton, aka the lesbian capital of America. (We were unsurprised to discover that the author lived in Portland, OR.) A gathering of women, who know each other's foibles all too well, attempt to reach consensus on a creative project, with ample supplies of kombucha, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and performative wokeness for everyone.
Zach Klebaner's third-prize "Sestina: Bruh!" shares trippy California-dude wisdom in a formally precise sestina that indeed ends each line with "Bruh!" Simple but surprisingly effective, this poem had Winning Writers staff calling each other "Bruh" all day, which was great for Jendi's transmasculine feelings, Bruh! It reminded us of Jonah Winter's "Sestina: Bob" in his debut collection Maine (Slope Editions Poetry Prize, 2001), which is a great book of absurd poetry that you all should read, Bruh!
Our honorable mentions explored such original topics as telephone hold music that reminds them of family secrets, a rhyming biography of Sigmund Freud, our president's similarity to a yeast infection, metafictional solutions to a parachute that fails to open, and the unsung poetic talents of TV network employees who censor dirty words in broadcast movies.
Our next contest is open now through April 1, 2020. Top prize is $1,000 and a two-year gift certificate from our co-sponsor, Duotrope. As Eleanor says in The Good Place, "Holy forking shirtballs!" Think how much cocktail shrimp that could buy.
The judges would also like to commend these finalists:
Gabbi Buckner, "Juice Shop Gospel"
Kevin Campbell, "Cuddle"
Patrick Clarke, "A Bang Average Love Poem"
Pamela Haley, "The Wedding"
Jonathan Knott, "Sonnet to Soap and Wax"
Bryanna Licciardi, "Trying to Reason with the Baby I Never Plan to Have"
Eileen McVety, "Pioneer Warrior"
Christin Nice-Webb, "Wallowers Request Understandings"
Eric Reitan, "Odes to Ordinary Things"
Victor Smirk, "The Origin of Man"
Shay Stewart, "Instructions on how to properly administer yeast infection medication"
Joshua Toro, "The Prom Proposal of J. Alfred Prufrock"
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".
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.