The eviction of invertebrates from the National Zoo: the subject of Gene Weingarten’s tragically bad poem, the example for Week 1080. (Bob Staake for The Washington Post )

(Click here to skip down to the results of our double-dactyl contest from Week 1076.)

New contest for Week 1080: McGonagall with the wind

To the Zoo, on a Cowardly, Profit-Driven Decision
Alas, the zoo is closing the exhibit of invertebrates
(Little animals that live on plankton and frankfurter bits).
Now where can we go to see coral and octopuses?
Fie on thee, zookeepers. You are spineless wusses.
— Gene Weingarten, inspired by the “poetry” of W.T. McGonagall

The Empress was recently alerted to the oeuvre — emphasis on the oeuuuu — of William Topaz McGonagall, a 19th-century Scotsman whose mawkish, clumsy odes on various tragic subjects prompted audiences to throw rotten fish at him, and today earns him such superlatives as “writer of the worst poetry in the English language,” in the words of a Web site devoted to his life and, uh, creations (see Such as this stanza from “The Execution of James Graham, Marquis of Montrose”:
After partaking of a hearty breakfast, he commenced his toilet,
Which, in his greatest trouble, he seldom did forget.
And while in the act of combing his hair,
He was visited by the Clerk Register, who made him stare.

Not surprisingly, such wordcraft inspired Washington Post Doggerel Laureate Gene Weingarten to pen the tragic ode above, on the occasion of the closing of the National Zoo’s Invertebrate House. And inspired us to ask you to out-McGonagall McGonagall: This week: Memorialize a modern “tragedy” in a poem burdened with hilariously overwrought verse; lame, forced rhymes; and painfully uneven meter. While the work of the real McG typically drones on for a dozen verses, we think you can get the badness across in one verse of no more than eight lines.

Winner gets the Inkin’ Memorial , the Lincoln statue bobblehead that is the official Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives, in keeping with the quality of the verse that will earn it, a miniature key fob of an itty-bitty rubber gorilla: You squeeze it and a little brown bubble of “poop” emerges from the mini-butt; let it relax and the poop-bubble returns inside the ape. A National Zoo souvenir donated by Loser Andrea Kelly.

The world’s easiest-to-clean-up gorilla poop — just unsqueeze and it goes back inside the gorilla. This little key fob is second prize in Week 1080 of the Invitational. (Pat Myers)

Other runners-up win their choice of a yearned-for Loser Mug or the ardently desired “Whole Fools” Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get a lusted-after Loser magnet, either the Po’ Wit Laureate or Puns of Steel. First Offenders receive a smelly tree-shaped air “freshener” (FirStink for their first ink). E-mail entries to or, if you were born in the 19th century, fax to 202-334-4312. Deadline is Monday, July 21; results published Aug. 10 (online Aug. 7). No more than 25 entries per entrant per contest. Include “Week 1080.” in your e-mail subject line or it might be ignored as spam. Include your real name, postal address and phone number with your entry. See contest rules and guidelines at This week’s honorable-mentions subhead is by Danielle Nowlin; the alternative headline for the “next week’s contest” line is by Jeff Contompasis; “Six-Hooters” is by Nan Reiner. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at, and click “like” on Style Invitational Ink of the Day at

^ The Style Conversational The Empress’s weekly online column discusses each new contest and set of results. Especially if you plan to enter, check it out at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago . . .


The double dactyl, a verse form invented just a few decades ago, has all sorts of rules: It has to be eight short lines; one of the lines has to be a six-syllable word; one has to include someone’s name; and most important, it has to be in dactylic (DUM-da-da) meter. As in today’s inking entries, the best of a stampede of a thousand or so galloping submissions.

The winner of the Inkin’ Memorial:

Higgledy piggledy,
Ken Cuccinelli, the
Aspirant found

Preoccupation with
Wasn’t, as strategies
Go, ultra sound. (Jeremy Horowitz, Washington, a First Offender)

2nd place

and the “Manneken Pis” snow dome from Brussels:

Abraca dabraca,
Poor Lois Lerner has
Lost all her e-mails — oh,
Where could they be?

Why does the IRS
Never lose track of what’s
Owed them from me? (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

3rd place

Higgledy piggledy,
Philippa Middleton
(”Pippa,” Kate’s sister): it’s
Clear to deduce

How you upstaged royal
She had the train, but you
Had the caboose.
(Brendan Beary, Great Mills, Md.)

4th place

Hairily scarily
Donald the Trump thinks we
Don’t get enough of a
View of his fame.

On all his buildings is
Vandals should tear down the
“T” from his name.
(Rick Haynes, Boynton Beach, Fla.)


Honkoway Broncoway
Orenthal Simpson, who
Bungled a burglary,
Wound up in jail.

There, from inside of his
Sits right on top of the
Real killer’s tail.
(Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Upcoming Anniversaries
Crashity splashity,
Edward M. Kennedy
Drove off a bridge span in

(Armstrong and Aldrin were
Manning the Eagle and
Landed just fine).
(Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Dandily, scandally
Lerner’s computer is
Suddenly missing some
E-mails, Boo-hoo!

Ryan has dared to say
Next year will Ryan get
Audited, too? (Claire Keeler, Manassas, Va., a First Offender)

Votery dotery
Eric I. Cantor was
Beaten by Tea Party
Favorite Brat,

Proving that primaries
Often exclude from the
Ring the wrong hat.
(Sam Gwynn, Beaumont, Tex., a First Offender)

Fiddledy, Diddledy,
Cantor said smugly, “Oh,
he’s just a nothing. I’ll
Trounce him — no fears.”

Then oh so startlingly,
Folks on his home grounds had
Other idears. (Bill Willcox, Washington, whose only other previous Invite ink was a poem in Week 393, 2001)

Paleo, naileo
Ogg the Neanderthal
Mated with humans, our
DNA states.

Given the evident
Stone Agers must have been
Hard up for dates.
(Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Nearical spherical
Buckminster Fuller, he
Never had need for a
Brush or a comb.

Egg-headed wizard who
Touted to all that there’s
No place like dome.
(Kevin Dopart, Washington)

Hiltony wiltony,
Shooting the president,
John Hinckley Jr. thought,
“Jodie will beam!”

Warped and deluded, the
Gunman had missed she was
Not on his team.
(Christopher Lamora, Los Angeles)

Ruefully; truefully?
Eleanor Roosevelt,
Asked by her spouse, when their
Coupling turned sham,

To be discreet in her
“Franklin, my dear, I just
Don’t give a damn.”
(Nan Reiner, Alexandria, Va.)

Jerkily, twerkily,
Hannah Montana, her
Old alter ego, must
Be all aghast:

Miley, who’s older now,
Gyrates and strips off this
Part of her past.
(David Franks, Greenland, Ark.)

Jesus of Nazareth
Feeding five thousand: two
Fish and some bread.

“Such a proceeding is
Bakers and fishermen
Hastily said.
(Hugh Thirlway, The Hague)

Mehmet C. Oz, MD,
Flogs coffee extract as
Fat-burning fuel,

Senators recommend,
That he be labeled a
Great Weight Loss Tool.
(Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Benedict Cumberbatch
(Cherished by fans as an
Arrogant sleuth)

Mines the attractions of
Keeping his coolness while
Ditching his couth.
(Susan McLean, Iowa City, Iowa, a First Offender)

Jumpity bumpity,
George Herbert Walker Bush
Strapped on a parachute,
Took a big leap;

Nobody told him most
Celebrate 90 by
Falling asleep. (Beverley Sharp)

Iggity wiggity,
Pallas Athena, the
Goddess of wisdom, and
Also the arts,

Shows up in sculpture with
(Not so with Venus, who’s
Missing some parts.) (Mae Scanlan, Washington)

Rahmical cahmical
Mayor Emanuel,
Running Chicago, does
Not like disputes.

Talks to his enemies
Flashing his famous four-
Finger salutes. (Chris Doyle, Ponder, Tex.)

Hippity hoppity,
Nouri al-Maliki
Heads up a country that’s
Ready to crack.

Islamists carving up
Nouri is stuck in a
Hard place, Iraq. (Beryl Benderly, Washington)

Haqeri ’Raqeri
Nouri al-Maliki
Baghdadi chieftain who
Said, “I’m the man.”

Lost in a battle that’s
We’ll ask,”Where is he?” and
He’ll say: “I-ran.” (Mark Raffman)

Monstery bonstery
Bolaji Badejo,
Creature in “Alien,”
Scared us a lot;

Who’d want to mess with that

Which thought should Ripley’s be?
Leave it, or not? (Brendan Beary)

Higgelton piggelton
Pastor Jim Jones was an
Sick puppeteer.

Mass suicide, though, is
No laughing matter. So
Don’t get your hopes up — there’s
No punch line here.
(Niels Hoven, San Francisco)

Humpery bumpery
Kim West/Kardashian
First got attention for
Exploits in bed

Still her big ass brings her
(No, not her tuchus! The
one that she wed). (Danielle Nowlin, Woodbridge, Va.)

Fly-mama, my-mama,
Your Mama’s uglier
Than a baboon or a
Dirty dead rat,

Plus she resembles an
Even-toed ungulate
Also, she’s fat. (Robert Schechter, Dix Hills, N.Y.)

Higgledy piggledy,
Andriy Deshchytsia,
Pol from Ukraine, isn’t
One to stand mute;

Calls Putin “d---head,” and
We laugh along and say,
“Odessa hoot.” (Brendan Beary)

And Last:
Empress of Washington
(Like Queen Victoria)
Wasn’t amused.

Spurning my humor, she
Binned all my entries — why
Wasn’t I choosed?
(Brian Allgar, Paris)

Still running — deadline Monday night: Our contest for questions that have rhyming answers. See

Next week’s results: Time Marches Swiftly, or Adverbal Abuse, our contest for “Tom Swifty” jokes. See