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

Week 974: Longevity isn’t everything, but it beats the alternative

By the E, Pat Myers

It’s a bit silly to dwell on it, especially since the New Statesman contest in Britain has been going strong since late in the reign of King Ethelred the Unready, but it’s immensely gratifying to surpass the 973 contests that made up the New York Magazine Competition — with a feature that’s as strong and vibrant as ever (as this week’s results demonstrate).

The Post is celebrating a bit by putting a cute “Long Live the Invite” pennant atop the print page this weekend — and it was the idea of Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford to use the trash-talky headline “Eat Our Dust” — but I'm sure that if this milestone had been achieved during the reign of my predecessor, The Czar, there would have been far more gloating. After all, the Czar (who is so intimate an acquaintance of Post humor columnist Gene Weingarten that he trims Gene’s nose hair) — was inspired to create The Style Invitational after having been snubbed by NYM Competition queen Mary Ann Madden about 20 years before when she didn’t run his single entry.

The NYM contest extended over a far longer period than the Invite’s 19-and-some years so far, because it ran in the magazine only two out of every three weeks, finally ending its run in 2000. Which means that Ms. Madden got to watch her life’s work being “arrogated” (her term in an e-mail to an entrant to both contests) by some boor with a fixation on poop and underpants.

One of the coolest things about the NY Mag contest was that it regularly gave ink to a lot of famous names. According to the Wikipedia entry on New York Magazine, such writers as David Mamet, Herb Sargent and David Halberstam were regular entrants. The limerick from 1982 that we we use as an example for our Week 974 contest is credited to “Jay Livingston, N.Y.C.”; I couldn’t confirm whether that’s the same Jay Livingston who wrote the songs “Que Sera, Sera” and “Mona Lisa” [his fascinating obit].

But along with the celebs were the people who are much more important to us (and probably to the contest) — regular contestants who have gone on to even greater renown as Style Invitational Losers. They include (among numerous others) Stephen Dudzik, John O’Byrne, Edmund Conti and, most notably for us, Chris Doyle, who after the demise of the NYM Competition turned the full force of his creative energies on The Style Invitational, and — just take a look this week — is going strong almost 1,400 blots of Invite ink later. Chris kept extensive archives of the many NYM contests he participated in, and he’s suggested several that have gone on to become Invite perennials, including the annual neologism contest we call “Tour de Fours.”

This week’s contest was actually first suggested by rookie Loser Robert Schechter a few weeks ago on the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook; Bob, who is regularly published in light-verse journals, noted that on Eratosphere, a literary discussion group he belongs to, people were summing up movie plots in limerick form, and he suggested that it would be a good Invite contest. Then Chris noted that a similar, broader contest had run at least three times in the NYM competition — and the Empress saw a great way to “honor” the contest just in time for Week 974.

I’ve read just a few of the NYM limericks, but I’m confident that our entry pool will surpass that one in quality; when it comes to funny, clever, pointed limericks, we simply have THE best stuff around (she noted in utter objectivity). The guide to limerick writing that we link to this week is the same one I wrote up for our annual Limerixicon contests, but without all the specific references to those contests.


This week I sent out almost a dozen already-won Grossery Bags, the tote bags that may be chosen by third- and fourth-place Invite winners. (“Grossery” turned out to be sort of a misnomer, since Bob Staake decided to design the bags — with winning slogan by Loser Melissa Balmain — with a surfeit of good taste.) Various people posted today on the Devotees page that their bags had arrived, and I asked someone to post a photo of himself or herself with the bag, to show how big it is. Brendan Beary first complied, and Mike Gips followed with a “more winsome” model, his young daughter. Prompting Brendan to post this photo.


I sent an e-mail this afternoon straight to Marcus Brauchli, executive editor of The Whole Washington Post, with this subject line: “You’re going to love this week’s Style Invitational for 2 reasons.” The second reason was the pass-NYM milestone. No. 1: that the results are “the absolute epitome of the Style Invitational ‘brand’ of mixing highbrow and lowbrow ... They are terrific results -- an English major’s guffaw-fest.”

It was really, really hard to exclude all but 44 of the Week 970 “tailgaters,” in which you choose a line from a famous poem and turn it into a funny couplet by following it with a line of your own. For one thing, our always strong band of Loser versifiers was suddenly accompanied by long lists of good entries from dozens of light-verse buffs who were new to the Invitational. I ended up running NINE First Offenders from both the United States and Europe. I hope that Keeper of the Stats Elden Carnahan can tell me if that’s a record. Thanks again to Robert Schechter, who spread the word among the light-verse community; he must have given them a very good idea of what we were looking for, because it’s very unusual that new people find themselves on our wavelength right off.

To those new people who went inkless this week: Please give it another shot with the Week 974 limericks or another future contest — your poem was most likely the very next one I would have included. No, not THAT entry; that was kind of lame. Your other entry; right, that one.

The “above the fold” ink — the winner and three runners-up — consisted of one of our brand-new poets and three of our brand-old ones: Brendan Beary blots up Ink No. 831 for his first of the new Inkin’ Memorial trophies. (Brendan is so greatly renowned among both the Loser and poetic communities that I received ELEVEN entries rhyming “Beary” with “midnight dreary” or “weak and weary.”) Last year’s Rookie of the Year, Nan Reiner, gets her 73rd (and 74th and 75th) ink this week; Nan has distinguished herself in almost all of our varied types of contests, but I think her strongest suit is verse; it was Nan who wrote (and sang) the song-parody tributes to Loser of the Year Gary Crockett and to the our former first-place trophy, the Inker at last month’s Flushies award banquet.

Chris Doyle, yadda yadda ... and, grabbing the other T-shirt/mug/tote option, our First Offender Mary E. Moore.

The wonders of Googling reveal a number of charming poems by our newest runner-up, including these double dactyls about coins from the online journal Bumbershoot. That same page includes a brief , remarkable bio: “Mary E. Moore, Ph.D., M.D., began her career as an experimental psychologist. After working in a hospital, she decided to attend medical school. Subsequently, she became a rheumatologist, combining teaching, research and clinical practice. Since retiring from medicine, she has been writing poetry. Her work is primarily rhymed verse in traditional forms. It has appeared or is forthcoming in Möbius, Raintown Review, The Mid-America Poetry Review and several other journals and anthologies. She was The HyperTexts’ Spotlight Poet of the month for February, 2007.” I hope Mary will soon enhance that bio with a line about her enormous accumulation of Style Invitational ink.

Best way to know, when judging entries without seeing who wrote them, that the entrant ain’t from around here: the line “I won’t be panto horse with you again.” That one was indeed by an Englishman, the well-known poet Bill Greenwell of Darlington, who did get a FirStink for his first ink with a more universal sentiment, about restaurant waiters. (We do know of panto horses, however, from this important guide to All Things British.)

Lynn’s HAW for the week split along the clever-vs.-funny line: As she put it: “My heart loves [Bob Schechter’s] ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud.’ My horse-laugh loved ‘Who will believe my verse in time to come...’ — by First Offender Brian Allgar.


I’m sorry that I can’t make it downtown on Sunday for the annual Mass Hysteria of Really Smart People that constitutes the Washington Post Hunt, a race among thousands of participants to decipher several confounding brain teasers. Participants usually work in teams, and I understand that there’ll be at least one group of Losers meeting at Franklin Square on Sunday — including Stephen Gold of Glasgow, Scotland, who’ll be in D.C. with the missus for five days as a tourist. (Congratulations on your ink today, Stephen!) If you’d like to join up with the others, I think the best way to coordinate by now would be to mention it on Facebook — even if you don’t yet have an account, you can sign up through this link, and I’ll bring you on as a member of the Style Invitational Devotees.


With the quality and zinginess of the entries we did run, we didn’t think it was worth going out on a limb to include these excellent but probably over-the-line ones. NOTE: As usual, if you tend to be offended by sex jokes, just stop reading here. Thanks.

I am the captain of my soul;
My seamen I cannot control. (Henley/ Chris Doyle)

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
For Elin took his balls tonight. (Blake/Jennifer Cohen)

Think’st thou to seduce me then with words that have no meaning?
Hold your tongue and try instead strategic Vaselining. (Thomas Campion/ Jan D. Hodge)

By the shores of Gitchie Goomee
Minnehaha gladly blew me. (Longfellow/ Basil Ransome-Davies)

Whevever Richard Cory went “down town,”
His wife would tap his shoulder, with a frown. (Edwin Arlington Robinson/ Tom Witte)

I love little pussy, her coat is so warm,
Though I’m Secret Service, what could be the harm? (Jane Taylor/ Gary Crockett)

Sweet love, renew thy force; be it not said
That you gave up halfway while giving head. (Shakespeare/ Brian Allgar)

I arise from dreams of thee;
The wet spot’s neither sweat nor pee. (Shelley/ Chris Doyle)

Love is too young to know what conscience is,
And too dumb to use protection from the jizz. (Shakespeare/ Dixon Wragg)

Hey, brave Johnnie lad, Cock up your beaver! Like brave Johnnie Edwards, Love ’er and leave ’er! (Robert Burns/ Gary Crockett)

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