Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest 2020
Congratulations to the winners of our 2020 humor poetry contest!
First Prize $1,000
Justine Hudock, LSD
Second Prize $250
Andrew Maust, The Challenge
Third Prize $150
David Leo Sirois, I Hear the Bank of America Singing
Honorable Mention $100
- Ty.Brack, Christmas with Pentecostal Fried Chicken
- Mike Cecconi, Take Me Home Country Roads Starring Danica McKellar
- Deborah L. Davitt, A Society of Cats
- Matt DG, Football
- Patty Holloway, Background Check
- Ethan Lesley, The Showmanship of Philipa Yanës
- Christopher Lessick, You Have Your Mother to Thank for the Type of Man You Will Become
- Karen Rockwell, toast
- Amy St Johnwood, The Organic Child
- Carol Sanders, Pop-Up
- David Webb, An Obsessive Compulsive Numerologist Assays the Haiku
- Miles Wilson, Bear on the Stump
Thanks to everyone who entered our 19th annual Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. This has been a year when we all desperately needed something to smile about (and it's not over yet!) Our 5,072 contestants delivered with entries that were timely, titillating, and TMI. Sharpen your sanitized pencils and shake off your Zoom fatigue for 2021.
In a time of disruptive change, there's one thing we can count on. First-round screener Lauren Singer Ledoux applied her usual brilliance and stamina to the task of selecting 150 shortlisted entries for final judge Jendi Reiter. Lauren says of this year's crop of chuckles:
"Having the privilege to spend so much time with so much humor is nothing to balk at in these Hard Times™. Judging in quarantine added an extra element of spice to the whole equation, and I anticipate it's no surprise to any of you that boy howdy, there sure were a lot of pandemic poems! Especially once we got into submissions between February and April, it was basically all anyone could talk about, and you know, with good reason. So, let's just have a quick check-in as we might be here for a while and I bet my own bottom dollar that next year is going to be chock full of COVID comedy. (Because if we don't laugh, we cry. It's okay.)
"Word to the wise for 2021 submissions: If you're writing from a place of quarantine burn-out, remember that we are all right there with you. We know there's a toilet paper shortage, we know you're making bread, we know you're wandering your homes like maniacal hamsters, cheeks packed with carbs and a wheel on the road to nowhere, so give us something original! What weird and potentially pathological hobby did you or your strange child take up during the apocalypse? What bizarre pandemic-themed bedroom roleplay did you and your significant other devise to help ease the pain of global isolation? How are you passing the time in a work-from-home hellscape and why is it socially distant spying on your neighbors you are now convinced are robots (just me?) Whatever it is, the prize is in the personal, people. Make it unique, make it yours, make me jealous I didn't think of it myself.
"As I've gotten pretty good at weeding out what doesn't work year after year, here are just a few reminders of poems that always get a hard pass from me: racist sestinas; relentless narratives on leaving the toilet seat up, not flushing, clogging, and/or missing the toilet altogether; misogynistic, fat-shaming, ageist, or unnecessarily creepy poems that veer off the tableau of consent somewhere in their anachronistic attempt at being poetry simply because it is written in formal stanzas; "With apologies to…" poems which are not actually apologetic and are merely just badly parodied Frost dedications about two diverging somethings saying a whole lot of nothing. You get the drift. I love to be surprised and these tired themes just don't do anything for my funny bones.
"The pieces that always get high marks from me are finding the humor in the mundane, the devil in the details, and the observational glimpses inside the micro-universes we all live in day to day that just make being alive a comedy of absurdity and humanity. This year's best pieces packed it in with originality, nuance, and often a little bit of heart to sweeten the deal. Those are the combinations I always look for and the ones that always stand out."
Now more than ever, our intimate lives are mediated through computer screens. When travel is off-limits, some of us turn to inner journeys. Such a one is the Instagram mommy who narrates Justine Hudock's tonally perfect "LSD", the tale of a very special "trip" to the maternity ward. Deciding that 'shrooms would be more effective than ice chips for labor pains, the mommy-blogger spirals to ever greater heights of self-centered pseudo-profundity while bringing her fourth baby into the world.
Andrew Maust's second-prize poem "The Challenge" pushes the human body to its limits in a different way. "Eat the Monster Burrito and Eat for Free" proclaims the sign at Benny's Gas-N-Go in Newark. Will Beowulf slay his bean-stuffed Grendel? Read on if you dare.
David Sirois channels Walt Whitman in his third-prize poem "I Hear the Bank of America Singing". Our fetishizing of cash and corporations becomes delightfully explicit in his ecstatic, erotic hymn to overdraft protection and drive-through ATMs.
Our honorable mentions covered such topics as bluffing your way through sportsball conversations, what not to include in your dating profile picture, alternate endings for cliché TV-movies, and the pop-up ad that wouldn't die.
Our next contest is open now through April 1, 2021. (As my Jewish grandparents used to say, we should all live so long.) We have doubled the top prize to $2,000 and the second prize to $500. Entry, of course, remains free.
The judges would also like to commend these finalists:
Kathleen Blake, "Piano Eater"
Margie Gaffron, "What If"
Elliot Lewis, "Scene One: The Birth"
Rowan Lyster, "To a Gentleman on the Tube"
Peter McDonald, "Orange Faced Guy"
Ethan Talbert, "Most Epic Poem Ever (with Footnotes)"
Jeff Tigchelaar, "Late Snack"
Jade Wallace, "Anyone Can Find the Dirt in Someone"
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
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".