Style Conversational Week 1076: Going slowly into re-verse


I swear this was not my idea: Frank Osen gets dubbed Knight of The Eighty-Seven Inks and Counting with the aid of a disgusting alligator-foot back scratcher at the West Chester Poetry Conference on June 7. (Mark Holt)
June 12, 2014

Don’t worry, anti-versifiers; we’re not turning into The Style Invitational Poetry Contest, even if we’ve had a couple more than usual so far this year (obit poems, news poems, common-words poems and the just-closed parody contest). Sheez, this is our first double-dactyl contest in 20 years.

And a double dactyl, essentially, is just a rhyming couplet — it could be presented in two lines. It just takes up a lot of space in the eight-line form (plus a space) in which it’s presented. And it has lots of rules. So the Nerdy but Not Necessarily Lyrical Losers should do just fine.

When I showed the Czar the rules he published for the Week 79 contest, he was appalled at his explanations, and how he allowed for lines to be shorted by a syllable. So he wrote them over for this week. He was also bothered by meters of some of the winners he chose (results here). Note that while the lines of a double dactyl (except 4 and 8) have to have the DUM-dee-dee, DUM-dee-dee, they might also have the occasional unaccented syllable.

Of course, this contest springs from my visit last weekend to the West Chester Poetry Conference, where I met a number of light-verse poets. The panel I was on — on parodies — was the last session of the last day of the event, right before the picnic, but the audience seemed to stay awake nevertheless, especially when the distinguished professor and light-verse poet R.S. Gwynn fastened a white towel around his shoulders to make a cape and sang a pretty dang good Elvis impression. Both he and the similarly renowned Bob McKenty sang several of their own parodies that were both well crafted and highly entertaining.

Not wanting to follow Elvis, I was happy to do my little presentation first, after the introduction by the panel’s organizer, Light poetry journal Editor Melissa Balmain, who said great things about the Invite but neglected to mention that she has dabbed at 47 blots of ink herself. My talk about what makes a good parody pretty much reflected what I said in the Week 1074 Conversational. To illustrate, I got the audience to sing along — surprisingly lustily and well — with both Barbara Sarshik’s parody of “Anything Goes” (“Everyone Stays” — see last week’s column) and Brendan Beary’s winning parody about the Running of the Bulls at Pamplona:

(to “If I Only Had a Brain”)
I could drink Amontillado
To work up my bravado
And quell my fear of pain.
Partly drunk and wholly crazy,
I could be all Hemingwazy
If I ran the bulls in Spain.

Yes, the notion is outlandish,
For bulls ain’t Ferdinandish,
At least not in the main.
But each year, fellows pour in
To risk tramplin’ and gorin’
As they run the bulls in Spain.

Oh I perhaps could die,
But what a way to go!
Yes, the end could be a mess, but even so,
I’d be so drunk, I’d hardly know!

Though my sprint is more a waddle,
There’s courage in a bottle
For something so insane.
I could prove I’m really macho
Or else end up as gazpacho
If I ran the bulls in Spain.

Both parodies produced big cheers from the audience, as did, in a nod to spoken verse, Jeff Brechlin’s famed “Hokey Pokey Sonnet,” the winner of Week 494.

And I ended by plugging the Invite some more, and enticing the assembled to enter by presenting Recidivist Loser Frank Osen — a poet who flies in every year from Pasadena — with his second-place prize from Week 1071: the alligator-foot back scratcher. (The photo above was taken at the picnic afterward. I don’t know either; there was wine.)

I met another Loser at the conference for the first time, even though he lives in Washington: J.D. Smith has published several collections of serious poetry, but it was J.D.’s entirely deadpan delivery of this poem — it was sort of a cross between Andy Kaufman and Radar O’Reilly — that I’ll remember most from a late-evening group reading of light verse. In fact, the Royal Consort recited it repeatedly on the way home:

(the trick is to read it extremely solemnly)
The armadillo
Makes a terrible pillow
Cold, hard and gray,
He keeps walking away

That one was published in Light some time ago, but J.D. (or, more poetically, John Dunn) says he’s working on a collection of animal verses comprising each letter in the alphabet. And he says he’d like to come to a Loser brunch before long.

Nice racks! The results of Week 1072’s ScrabbleGrams contest

With a much smaller list of seven-letter ScrabbleGrams sets (and even a six-letter one ended up in there), we still ended up with plenty of neologisms for the Week 1072 results. While the top four “above-the-fold” winners are Invite regulars — three of them so regular that they ought to plug Serutan — we have a bumper crop of First Offenders as well.

With his — yeow — 33rd first-place win, Brendan Beary continues to leave the 900-ink mark in the distance as he saunters toward the Invite Double Hall of Fame, currently cluttered only with Chris Doyle, Russell Beland, Tom Witte and Kevin Dopart. David Ballard has a saner 28 inks, but four of them (including a winner) were above the fold. Another renowned light-verse poet, Mae Scanlan, once again shows her versatility with Ink No. 249. And it’s a welcome return to the Losers’ Circle for Dave Zarrow — before he retired, he advertised himself as America’s Funniest Office Products Salesman — who blots up Ink 333.

As with the horse-names contests and the crossword clues, I didn’t try at all to print one entry for every rack; I just chose my favorite entries. In fact, I think it’s fun to show the variety of results that came from a single rack. But I think that even the Obsessive Losers will admit that we have a laaaat of entries here. Which do NOT include the following.

Turn those tiles over! Unprintable entries from Week 1072

(Stop immediately if you don’t want to see disgusting humor.)

AINDLTN → Nadlint: Due south of navel fuzz. (Jim Lubell)

EOAOGTS → Stage O: Achieving “liftoff” (Craig Dykstra)

OANDGRN - Grandon: A truly magnificent erection (Jeff Shirley)

And finally, a whole quartet from Tom Witte:
IUTDLPP → Pulip: One reason not to kiss a coprophagist.

OAHMRFT → Farto” Two kinds of blissful release at once.

OAOERDF → Efdoor: An orifice. Some feel any will do.

OAHMRFT → A-froth: What the Urban Dictionary calls “santorum.”

Loser brunch June 22 at Chadwicks in Old Town Alexandria. See nrars.org.

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