Style Conversational Week 1030: 2-4-6-8! 2 do we appreciate! (Do we?)

July 18, 2013

To compensate for last week’s epic 2,000-word dispatch, I won’t keep you long here and instead will let you spend your time on the more than 40 inking entries from Week 1026, all of which made the print paper as well as the online version.

The cinquain. as popularized by the ill-fated poet Adelaide Crapsey, who grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and endured tuberculosis and her father’s dismissal from the ministry on a charge of heresy before she died at age 36, does tend to have an iambic (ba-BUMP, ba-BUMP) meter, as in one of her nicer efforts, “Niagara”:

How frail
Above the bulk
Of crashing water hangs,
Autumnal, evanescent, wan,
The moon.

But as I say in the introduction to Week 1030, for us it’s not a requirement; the cinquain only has to be 22 syllables split exactly so over five lines. This gives you five more syllables than the Week 1023 haiku contests, and the subject matter is wide open.

The first (and only other) time we did this contest, back in 1996, the inking results (not a paywall link) tended to mock poor Miss Crapsey’s breathless sentiments, as in this runner-up by 370-time Loser Jonathan Paul, who used to ace the poetry contests:

Snowflakes.
Faerie doilies,
Angels’ lace petticoats
Drift and swirl like souls of kittens.
Oh, barf.

But I’d rather not run a long list of such entries. The winner, by the way, was this excellent entry by one Christine Tabbert, her first and only ink:

Oh dear,
Sylvia Plath,
Down went your spirits, and
Up went the gas, and now life you
No hath.

Note, by the way, that neither the above entries nor Joe Romm’s cinquain I used as the example is in iambic meter. However, they do have some meter, some rhythmic consistency; they aren’t just sentences with five line-endings. While, again, it’s not a rule that the poem have a meter, I do think such verses tend to be better to read. I noticed in the haiku contest results, for example, that I gave a lot of ink to entries whose first and third lines had a strong meter of X-x Y-Y-Y, and whose second , seven-syllable line went X-x-x-x- Y-Y-Y; I think this meter is what Nan Reiner was getting at with this honorable-mention entry that week:

Better not attack:
We will drive you raving mad:
We can speak haiku.

So what’s a syllable? As in the haiku contest, I’ll be flexible in many cases; it doesn’t have to match the breaks specified in the dictionary. For example, “aren’t you” could be either two or three syllables depending on your needs, even though you can’t hypenate “aren’t” to break a line on a published page. Speaking of line breaks: unless it’s done for greatly humorous effect, breaking a non-compound word across two lines in a poem seems lame to me.

You might want to read the results of Week 1026

I got a wealth of funny entries in all five categories of the “if/ you might” contest of Week 1026 — along with a number of entries in categories that the entrants merrily decided to supply themselves (note that the directions, in boldface, specified, beneath the list of five boldface categories, “This week: Give us a joke using any of the templates above”). More than 40 entries see ink today, and if it turns out (it’s likely) that I’ll have more room next week when I run the results of the short-form Week 1027, the paired building features, I’ll run even more of them.

Today’s winner is someone whose name continuest to be linked with the Style Invitational more than any other Loser. Upon meeting him, Dave Barry said, “Chuck Smith? Chuck Smith of Woodbridge?”

Chuck made his mark in the first year of the Invitational: He basically ran away with the contest, scoring 85 blots of ink that first year, when the next highest ink count was 19. And this was at a time when The Post’s Sunday circulation was in the neighborhood of 1.2 million, about twice what it is now; it’s when a huge proportion of D.C. area households subscribed to The Post. And so Chuck quickly gained a certain celebrity, which was enlarged significantly in 1995 when Sunday Style reporter Frank Ahrens wrote a long profile of Chuck — the headline was “(Chuck Smith, Woodbridge)” — in mock-documentary style. Still, I come across people all the time who answer, when I tell them what I do all day: “Oh, do you know Chuck Smith of Woodbridge?”

Chuck continued to be a dominant force in the Invite standings for many years; in 2001 he became the only occupant of the Style Invitational Hall of Fame, a select group that gains its ninth member only this week. And while Chuck has cut far back on his Invite obsession in the past decade, he’s continued to enter on and off — and is one of only five Losers to have gotten ink in all 21 years of the Invite. One-liners are Chuck’s specialty — he’s supplied jokes to a number of syndicated comic strips — and I wasn’t surprised at all that the winning entry this week was his. This is his first Inkin’ Memorial, but of course it’s not his first win: Chuck now has 31 first-place inks — and 132 inks “above the fold” — among his total of 834 blots. It’s great to see his name up there again,
Our three runners-up are Invite veterans as well: Art Grinath (debut week 104), Michael Greene (an Invite baby among this crowd, debuting in Week 900) and Beverley Sharp (Week 604).

But we also have an impressive five First Offenders this week; I hope we hear lots more from all of them. Among them is Bryan Mitra, another student in the Salinas, Calif., high school summer school class that’s been entering the Invite en masse in recent weeks. It seems that Bryan has figured out the magic words that lead to Invite ink: “toilet paper.”

With Malitz toward ... : Sunday Style Editor David Malitz enjoyed the “You might be humor-impaired ...” section the best this week, and gave his nod to Robert Schechter’s Abbott and Costello entry.

And speaking of the Hall of Fame . . .
Two weeks ago, I saluted Elden Carnahan — the father of the Loser Community and the Keeper of the Stats — in the Conversational on the occasion of his 499th ink. I noticed too late this week that he’d made it across the threshold with his honorable mention, and so I’ll recognize him in the Invite next week. And I’ll talk him up again in this space next week as well: With all that Elden does for the Invite, he deserves multiple fusses made over him.

This weekend: Get your Loser Brunch RSVPs in to . . .

... To Elden, of course. I’ll be out of town this weekend, but I’m sorry to miss the first Loser Brunch ever at the Hyattsville branch of Busboys & Poets, this Sunday at 10 a.m. Here’s the link to the brunch page at nrars.org, the comprehensive Loser-friendly website run by .... yes.

Hey, did you get the e-mail?

If all went as hoped, my weekly notification e-mail with links to the Invitational and Conversational reached all 2,500 people on the mailing list, and looked much spiffier, with HTML and a cartoon and all that. This is the first week I’m using e-Dialog, The Post’s mass-mailing system, which allows you to unsubscribe and update your address by clicking on a link, rather than demanding for the third time that I get it right (sorry, handful of afflicted folks). And it will allow me to push one button, rather than address and send half a dozen sometimes balky e-mails. If you don’t get the notification, check your spam filter.

As I mentioned last week, accessing the stories through the e-mail will count toward The Post’s limit of 20 free stories a month to those who don’t have the digital subscription (which is a very good buy at $10 a month). But accessing the Invite and Convo through Facebook is free to all. Join the Style Invitational Devotees page at on.fb.me/invdev ; it’s free and not run by The Post.

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