The Style Conversational
The Style Conversational
Loser-friendly discussion with The Empress of The Style Invitational

Week 952: The poems they’re dying to have written; plus the kook’s tour of our past year

By the E, Pat Myers

Happy Almost New (a.k.a. Certified Pre-Owned) Year, everyone. Today’s results — for the “Look Back in Inker” contest in which one could enter any (or 25) of more than 50 previous contests — run quite long, with 47 clever and funny entries varying from one-line horse names to big long song parodies. And I’d rather you take the time to enjoy them than sit around wading through this, so I’m not going into too much thumb-sucking here.

This week’s obit-poem contest, which we’ve done at the beginning of each year since I started Empressing eight years ago this month, is a mortal lock (so to speak) to produce fantastic results, what with the array of notables who began their new careers as daisy-pushers (or, in one case, seaweed-pusher). A few general guidelines gleaned from the evidence of what’s gotten ink before:

I like to run a mix of the very famous and the more obscure, so it pays to see if there’s something interesting and funny to say about some of the lesser-known names on these lists of “notable deaths.” While I have no problem running two or more poems about the same person, they naturally have to take different tacks; if there are two good poems that make pretty much the same wordplay, one of them will not get ink.

I also like to mix up relatively long and short verses, even on the print page. The usual size for our obit poems is four lines, but I have happily run poems of eight lines and even longer. On the other hand, I’ve also pulled one great couplet from an otherwise okay poem, and just run that.
Almost all the poems that get ink in this contest rhyme; there have been a few haiku and other non-rhyming forms, but they do have forms. To be more clever than an observation made in rhyme and meter, a free-verse observation would have to be devastatingly eloquent. It’s possible, though!

The name of the decedent doesn’t have to be in the poem; it can be in a title. Don’t forget, though, to put it somewhere! There can also be a very short description in the heading (e.g., ‘Yo-yo champion Duncan Duncan”), so that you don’t have to write it into the poem. If you have a link that I might include to add a little edification or interest, please include it.

There’s a trick to getting the tone right for obit poems. They have to be fun, and they certainly don’t have to be laudatory, but they can’t be in terrible taste — I’m hesitant to describe someone’s mother or neighbor being the dinner of maggots, for example. And if you’re going to react joyfully over someone’s death, or predict that the person goes to Hell, that person had better be a very widely recognized villain responsible for deaths and oppression. Osama bin Laden? Knock yourselves out. A lousy pop singer? No. On the other hand, you don’t want to be saccharine. Here’s a link to last year’s results (scroll down past the new contest).


While it always takes a lot of time to judge the yearly retrospective contest — next year, I’m going to insist that you remind me just what the contest was, instead of just saying “Week 927” or whatever — I get a kick out of the variety, and it’s just a heartening reminder of how many of the previous year’s contests turned out successfully.

Even more than with the obit poems, the real point of this contest is to show a wide variety of humor to readers, to show off the Losers’ amazing versatility and to remind them of all the crazy ideas we come up with. I’ve probably erred in running so many entries, but it's just so hard to withhold very good work. While most of the honorable mentions are in chronological order by week, I did move the longest-form entries — limericks and song parodies -- to the end of the list, so that the one-liners that appeared later wouldn't get lost. Song parodies especially require an investment in time for the reader, since the best way to appreciate them is to sing them out loud, or at least listen to them in one’s mind at the speed at which they’re sung — you can’t just eyeball them.

Not surprisingly at all, most of the entrants to this contest were dedicated Losers; we had no more than 10 or 12 people who seemed to be entirely new, and we ended up with zero First Offenders among the 47 inking entries. The 25-entry limit was dealt with differently Some people sent me long lists for one or two contests, while others sent one or two entries for each of a long list of contests. And yes, some people re-sent entries that didn’t get ink earlier (one notable Loser even sent an entry that did get ink earlier!) — and in at least one case, the entry did get ink this time around. Shoot me. I tried to check for earlier entries but it’s hard to see everything, especially among the entries that didn’t get ink. I hope I didn’t give ink this time to something that failed to win ink for someone else over the year — all I can say is that, yes, I am being spiteful toward you in particular. If this happened to you, I extend my apologies, which fall somewhere between “I’m so, so sorry — I feel terrible” and “Sorrr-REEE.”

It’s the third Inker and 14th “above-the-fold” ink for Dave Prevar, who now has blotted up 202 total, almost all since Year 12 (we’re now in Year 19). With Elden Carnahan and Pie Snelson, Dave has been one of the organizers of the Losers’ annual Flushies awards, at which he can sometimes be heard banging a cowbell with great gravitas. The newly Invite-revived David Genser continues his impressive back-on-track streak, and Craig Dykstra really cleaned up this week with five inks, including not just his runner-up 25-word story, but also his late-breaking edible-art portrait of what Bob Staake thinks I look like.

The biggest story of the week’s Losers, though, has to be Larry Gray — who in one week raised his all-time ink total from 10 to 14, sending him sailing up almost 80 places in Elden Carnahan’s Loser standings Larry, who didn’t get his first ink until Week 923, divided his 25 entries over 11 contests, some of which predated his entry into the Greater Loser Community. We can only imagine what Gray matter Larry will let loose on us next year.


Not all that many of them, considering the opportunity, but there were a few funny-but-no-ways:
The king of this category, Tom Witte, contributed this one for Week 904, where you move the first letter of the word to the end: Igolog: A cylindrical piece of wood that is crucial to a certain kind of man’s livelihood.
We also had: Week 908, replace an actor: Fire Jerry Mathers from “Leave It to Beaver.” Hire Britney Spears. (Pie Snelson)
Week 913: Alter a 13-letter word slightly: Compenisations: Powerful sports cars. (Craig Dykstra)
And I guess the Scarlet Letter would also go to Craig this week:
Week 928: Questions answered by a movie title.
A. Camelot.
Q. What name was rejected for the documentary about John Holmes? .

Dang, I forgot to ask Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford what she hawed over this week. It was probably yours.

Happy New Year, everyone, and I hope to see you on Jan. 14 at the Loser Holiday Party at Dion and Jen Black’s house. Contact me if you need more information.

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