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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Why are Squirrels so Dang Poetic?

Wergle Flomp is probably the best-ever contest for funny poetry: multiple cash prizes and no entry fee. (It started out as a contest for awful poetry, but soon enough the winning poems were ones that were so awful that they were artful, and from there it just became a funny poem contest).
photo by James Marvin Phelps
Last year, judging assistant Lauren Singer read 4,484 submissions.  From her experience, she had this to say about what doesn't work (from the Winning Writer's Newsletter):
Parodies based on Poe, "The Night Before Christmas," Yeats, and Frost: If you are going to have a "With Apologies To..." poem, it needs to be clever enough to back up the fact that it is based on a famous original. So many of these poets jumped ship somewhere in the middle and did not utilize any clever parodying qualities, and merely wrote poems that were completely separate from the originals. Just stealing the voice of a dead poet does not a good poem make!

Poems that I found particularly arduous to read:
Poems about pooping, farting, vomiting, getting fat, having saggy boobs, tricking your husband so that he would stay with you, tricking your wife so that she would leave you, wrinkles, chocolate addiction, unoriginal limericks that began "There once was a man from Nantucket" that ended with "f*** it!", poems that invented their own language without a glossary and just translated as wan gibberish.

Poems that were offensive: Ones that embraced a pro-rape culture (there were more of these than you might think, and it was quite disheartening); poems that described women as objects; poems that led the reader to believe they were about women and then turned into poems about an object (odes to a car, boat, La-Z-Boy, golf club, burger, guitar, etc.); homophobic, sexist, xenophobic, racist poems, of which there were many; poems that mock a lifestyle in attempts to undermine it (making light of stay-at-home moms/dads, that sort of thing); poems that made light of mental illness, addiction, and recovery, in an offensive way as opposed to a self-deprecatingly humorous way.

"I'm getting so old" poems: These were by far the highest number of poems submitted in 2014. These have the ability to be funny, but more often than not there is SO much overlap. "I used to be so attractive, thin, energetic. Now I'm fat, wrinkly, and don't have sex. I can't bend over anymore, I can't sit up without grunting, I can't eat fried foods, I can't enjoy life because I'm over 60." These become tiring and disheartening after a while. There were a few that embraced an original voice and those made the cut, but the vast majority of poems about aging were nearly indistinguishable from each other.
Feeling squirrelly: There were well over a hundred poems solely about squirrels. This is merely a side note, as some of them were quite funny, but out of sheer curiosity, what the hell was it about squirrels this year? What is this obsession? Why are squirrels so dang poetic? Any squirrel poems that ended in a pun about nuts generally didn't make the cut.


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The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau