As I mention in the intro to Style Invitational Week 1441, the hearty-named Invite fan (but not an entrant, as far as I know) John Vigour got the idea for this week’s contest from a widely circulated Tumblr post called “Famous Poems Rewritten as Limericks,” and — perhaps realizing that the “famous poem” repertoire of your typical Invite reader wouldn’t fill a Top 40 list without the help of nursery rhymes and jump rope jingles — suggested that our Loser Limericians try the same idea with songs instead.
While I’m pretty much intransigent when it comes to the rhyme and meter of limericks (hence the guide I run with every lim contest), you’ll see that I was kind of fuzzy when explaining the content this week: “Sum up or otherwise reflect a well-known song as a limerick.” That’s because I don’t want to rule out opportunities for humor, and I’m not certain what approach will yield the most Ha! Funny! rather than just the admiring Huh. Clever.
My example today was a pretty straight translation of the opening verse of Hal David’s “Close to You.” David’s: Why do birds suddenly appear/ Every time you are near?/ Just like me, they long to be/ Close to you.
Mine: Whenever we go to the zoo/ The hummingbirds fly right to you!/ In your face they will flit/ And I’m irked, I’ll admit./ See, I’d like to be close to you, too.
Serviceable, I’d say, but it took Bob Staake’s twist of turning the narrator into a bacon-tongued crocodile to make it funny. So maybe rather than doing a straight summation, you might write about the song in some way. Having judged, oh jeez, more than 900 Style Invitational contests by now, I am no longer surprised but am still delighted by the creativity and resourcefulness of the Losers when it comes to novel approaches to a standard form.
After I posted the Invite this morning, Robert Schechter, one of our longtime Loserbards — and a published poet and translator — showed me some much better poems-as-limericks than the ones that inspired the contest; many of them appear among the links to “fractured verse” on various poets from the light-verse journal Bumbershoot. Here’s one by Bob himself on “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”
Tennyson’s second stanza: Theirs not to make reply,/ Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die. / Into the valley of Death/ Rode the six hundred.
And Robert Schechter’s limerick version:
Not given to reasoning why,
not choosing to make a reply,
though someone had blundered
on rode the six hundred
and did what they did, which was die.
Maybe not quite as emotionally wrenching, but it does gallop along — which is what 600 horses did, before dying.
(Had this been an Invite entry: In keeping with our strong preference for true rhymes in the Invitational, and because we’re trying to be funny, I would have preferred joke-spelling in Line 4: blundered/ six hundered.)
Anticipating other questions: Can you do it as two or a series of limericks? I won’t rule it out — but it needs to be good enough to use up two entries’ worth of space. If I have to trim for space, and usually do, long entries are definitely more vulnerable.
By the way: If somehow your limerick would also work to illustrate some word for OEDILF.com — the dictionary in limerick form — feel free to submit it there, but please wait until after the Week 1441 results are posted July 15. Right now it’s taking limericks featuring words beginning up through Ha-.
Fit to be typoed*: The results of Week 1437
Non-inking headline by Jesse Frankovich, who also got the inking headline
One more novel set of parameters, one more zingy set of neologisms: For Week 1437, the concept was to be fat-fingered and “accidentally” type a letter adjacent to the real one in a certain word or name, either adding it or replacing the original; or “accidentally” typing the letter twice in a row — flubs I commit constantly IRL. And I wasn’t at all surprised that the Losers handled the assignment deftly; I ran 45 entries online, and close to that in the print paper.
As I’m often able to do when the entries are one-liners (i.e., have no line breaks, as in a poem, Q & A, etc.) I was able to sort all 1,200 entries alphabetically, thus scattering each Loser’s up-to-25 entries across the whole pool. And with no writers’ names attached, I truly had no idea who’d written any single entry until I’d made my choices and started searching through Outlook for each one.
And sure enough, five of those searches — including for today’s winner, Jest Lag (the time between the joke and the response) — revealed the name of Chris Doyle, The Style Invitational’s highest-scoring Loser. Barfalounger! Horrorhea! Hostalgia! Defoxification! I just looked this up on Elden Carnahan’s Master Contest List and just can’t get my head around it: As of today, Chris has won the entire contest SIXTY times, for 2,328 blots of Invite ink, almost all of it beginning seven years after the Invitational began. For comparison: Well over 5,000 people have had at least one entry printed, but only 150 of them have had 60.
The Tan Commandments, the entry I had to disqualify because A is not adjacent to E on the keyboard, turned out to be by someone who had one single blot of Invite ink — from 1998. While some contestants complain that I pick the same ol’ people every week, I’m always thrilled to see new names among my choices. Oh, well. Try again, Tony — just be more careful next time.
What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood is back after celebrating a milestone birthday last week. (Doug’s 2 1/2 years younger than I am, and we started working together when we were 20-somethings in the 1980s, so I’ll always think of him as the kid, even though that white beard might indicate otherwise.) Doug enjoyed all the top winners this week — In God We Tryst (Jonathan Jensen), Marathin (a diet running more than two weeks, by Mark Raffman) and Microsoft Bung (Hannah Seidel) — and he also singled out Chris’s Barfalounger as frat house furniture; Jonathan’s Fadebook as the social media platform that’s passe if your parents are going to use it; Duncan Stevens’s Louis Deejoy as the entertainer who shows up late; Kevin Dopart’s Sexiled (“just-a-friended”); and Chris’s Defoxication as removal of poison from political discourse.
By the way, Doug will get to meet some of these people in person — and, I hope, you as well: he’s planning to come to the Loser/Devotee picnic at my house. See below for details.
Social Engorgements update! Loser/Devotee picnic, Saturday afternoon, July 3
(Reprinted from last week’s Style Conversational)
A couple of weeks ago in this space, I noted that Alex Blackwood, my co-admin of the Style Invitational Devotees group — and Invitational reader-junkie — would be in town from Houston for an unrelated event on July 1, and would be free to Meet the Losers on Friday and Saturday. And she’ll be staying with me and the Royal Consort here at Mount Vermin in Fort Washington, Md., about seven miles due south of the Beltway. Many Losers and Devs are eager to meet her — and one another, now that we’re finally emerging from covid hibernation.
I decided that the best way is to have y’all over for a potluck picnic here at my house, anytime between noon and 4 on Saturday, July 3. I’ll provide Salvadoran barbecued chicken and some other stuff, and you bring a moderate amount of food to eat and share: That way, the more people we have, the more food we’ll have (I really don’t care about how many of each food group), and we don’t have to worry about an accurate count. There’s no program of events; just come and chat; if you like, you can walk in the woods behind our house, or saunter down the hill to the Piscataway Creek waterfront. Kids are welcome, pets not so much. We’ll have tables outside; if it rains, we’ll bring them inside and be a bit cozier.
As always, you don’t have to be a Loser, just someone who enjoys The Style Invitational. I’ve posted information about my address etc. in the Devotees group; if you’re not on Facebook and would like to come, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. for details. (If I don’t know you, expect to chat with me a bit first.) If you’re planning on coming and I do know you, let me know, too.
If you can’t make it on July 3: Alex plans to do some D.C. sightseeing on Friday, July 2; we were thinking of the new Planet Word museum at 13th and K, and maybe the nearby National Museum of Women in the Arts, though they both require advance tickets. We’ll see.
And later on: Sunday, Aug. 22: A Loser brunch at the home of Loser Sam Mertens in Silver Spring, Md., which is a dry run for Saturday, Sept. 18: The Flushies, the Losers’ annual awards potluck banquet and songfest to honor this year’s (and last’s) Loser of the Year, Rookie, Most “Imporved,” Least Imporved, etc.
I’m guessing that for those later events we’ll be able to sing along with some of the parodies from Week 1440. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.