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June 20, 2003

Wocky Jivvy, Wergle Flomp
Posted by Teresa at 07:16 AM *

The Wocky Jivvy website chronicles an ongoing R&D program whose aim is to write a poem so awful that that perennial scam, the International Library of Poetry contest, will turn it down. So far, no success; every one of their poems has been declared a semi-finalist, which means it’ll be published in a Beautiful Anthology, of which the author will be invited to purchase a copy or three, along with other Choice Memorabilia.

Here’s recent unsuccessful attempt.

The frustration engendered by ILP’s relentless praise and acceptance led poet David Taub to submit his own string of bad poems to ILP’s contests. Flubblebop is my favorite:
flobble bobble blop yim yam widdley woooo
oshtenpopple gurby
yip yip yip
nish-nash nockle nockle
opfem magurby voey
Ahh! “Wurby tictoc?”
“quefoxenjib masaloouterp!”
bim-burm nurgle shliptog
afttowicky wicky wicky
erm addmuksle slibberyjert! …
ILP declared it a semifinalist, and published it in their Promises of Love anthology. Taub’s other two poems, Nicky Nacky Noo and Yew Gotta Larf, are IMO not quite as lively. They do however have the dual virtues of being written in English, and being denunciations of ILP and its contests and other offers. Here’s a bit of “Yew Gotta Larf”:
Yew gotta larf at any moreon who could write, “your poem was selected
for publication, and as a contest semi-finalist, on the basis of your unique talent
and artistic vision.”
when we all know this is about as artistic
as vomitting on the neigbour’s porch.
Burp… huey… excuse me while I be artistic on your cat.. so much for
the vision.. I never saw your cat.
Now let’s get down to the real truth..
You hope I am fooled into parting with
my cash to see this in your anthology. …
Unfortunately, found the poem’s unique perspective perfect for its new anthology, Seasons of Happiness.

The phoenix which has risen from the ashes of this disappointment is the Wergle Flomp Poetry Contest, which annually awards a prize of $817.70 for the best parodically bad poem which also makes fun of vanity poetry contests. In order to qualify, entries must have previously been submitted to a vanity poetry competition.

Science marches on.

Comments on Wocky Jivvy, Wergle Flomp:
#1 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 08:49 AM:

I... I'll write later. I just... I always get emotional at wicky wickies...

#2 ::: Mike Kozlowski ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 09:36 AM:

I like the Taub (for appropriate values of "like"), but the Wocky Jivvy stuff seems too self-consciously trying-hard-to-be-bad, in that Bulwer-Lyttonesque way. I've seen worse poetry -- much worse poetry -- presented straight.

#4 ::: Adam Rice ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 10:14 AM:

Sort of the reverse of the most wanted painting.

#5 ::: lnh ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 10:57 AM:

Mike's right. Truly bad poetry is hard to consciously write. Every McGonagall pastiche I've seen has been nowhere as nearly sublime as the original.


#6 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 10:59 AM:

Love Guppy's not all that bad. It's not about love; it's about getting mildly drunk on improbable rhymes. I can haul up dozens of genuinely awful poems with the magic Google magnet of bad verse: that fateful day. (Credit belongs to Martha Soukup for discovering the phrase's eldritch power.) Just run a search on love poem "that fateful day". You'll see.

#7 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 11:28 AM:

Yeah, but the point was that this Thing was accepted for a Beautiful Anthology! Googly moogly gibberish, insults to the editors, everything passed. What a world.

H. Allen Smith reported on a story cobbled together and sent in to one of these mail-order "YOU can be a writer" schools, called "Taken For A Hamburger." It was a rambling account of some incident where these guys was hanging around the hamburger stand aimlessly funning around, and one of them got picked up by a bigger lad and sat down upon some ground beef that stuck to his bottom. Hence the title, as the punch line of the story was that he better go change his pants or he might of been taken for a hamburger! Needless to say, the editorial review board was full of praise for the talents displayed by the writer of this unmemorable tale.

To me, a hallmark of truly bad verse is the ellipses. I have saved an issue or two of shopper mags that leavened the ads with things sent in by readers, and the outstanding example was a pathetic verse about... some poor child... of drug-addled parents... who never had... a chance in life... and later died... it was all... so sad... as the author reminded us regularly. I imagine its creator reading it, gasping out phrase by phrase like William Shatner on pain meds.

I'm trying to remember if there were any poems in the issue of "Highway Evangelist" (a magazine for Christian truckers) that I saved. I might remember if there were, but maybe my brain is protecting me again.

#8 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 01:53 PM:

I'll have you know that I'm having problems typing this because I'm laughing too hard. Bad poetry has its uses.

Wergle flomp!

#9 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 02:11 PM:

Have I been working on Chemistry textbooks too long, or does oshtenpopple gurby sound like something from a Roald Dahl book?

#10 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 03:26 PM:

Aw, now you've gone and made me feel bad. Back in high school I was sucker enough to believe that my verse was pretty good when it got accepted in one of those things ... of course, that means the teacher who encouraged her whole class to send things to these anthologies so she could get her picture in the local paper with her "published" students was an even bigger sucker, because she should have known better.

The McGonagall stuff is wonderfully awful. So did Terry Pratchett get his generic folk-song refrain "whack-a-fol-diddle-etc" from The Rattling Boy from Dublin, or is it truly generic?

#11 ::: Paul Riddell ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 04:31 PM:

Yes, now we all know how the judges for the Writers of the Future must feel.

#12 ::: Abigail ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 06:10 PM:

Huh, you've answered a long-standing question for me. I also sent a poem of mine to one of those things when I was in high school. I never got that excited about the 'handsome anthology' they were offering - my mother told me we wouldn't buy it, and that was that. I have wondered quite often in the intervening years whether it was a scam. Now I know.

The poem, if I do say so myself, was relatively decent. It was, however, a haiku, and while superb haikus are as rare as superb poetry in any other form, competent ones are awfully easy to write.

#13 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 11:10 PM:

All right, I've done my bit. I've submitted a poem to ILP. It goes like this:

Greetings from the Williams Family,

My name is rotime williams.i am 65 years old man.i was once
Married with two wife and two children died in a
Car accident six years ago.presently, I am in nigeria receiving
Treatment right now.ever since, I have been helping the
Orphans in the orphanage/motherless home.i have donated
Some money to the orphans in sudan, southafrica, cameroon,
Brazil, before I be came ill,i sent some money{25million
Dollars}twenty five million dollars in a boxes through one
Security company.the money is presently with the security
Company.presently, I am in a hospital. my doctors told me that
I have cancer of the lungs that I have few months to live.
Please,i beg you in the name of god to help me collect {boxes}
From the security company.after collecting the money{boxes}
From the security company, you will now help me to take the
Money{$25 million} boxes to as many orphange homes around
The world.i am offering you 15% of the total sum of $25million
5% is for any expenses incured by you.may the good god bless
You and your family.i await your urgent response.
Rotime williams.

If they tell me my unique artistic vision has led to my being named a semifinalist in their latest competition, I'm going to try again with that good old standby, "Crest has been shown to be an effective decay preventive dentifrice that can be of significant value when used as directed in a conscientiously applied program of oral hygiene and regular professional care."

#14 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2003, 12:45 AM:

These people's refusal to reject anything no matter how bad is very much like the saga of "A
Blind Man's Penis" (
A recording that just gets better and better...

#15 ::: janeyolen ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2003, 03:17 AM:

Several times over the years I have had to bite my tongue when a friend's teenager got taken by this scam. In fact as scam's go, it's pretty harmless. There is a book at the end. And why spoil weeks of pleasure to save them $39.95?

And every time about two or three years later, said friend and not-quite-teenager explain to me, with reddened cheeks, that they were had.

By the by, David and I, in the persona of a little old lady, tried to be accepted by the Famous Writers by writing a winky-little-daisy-flower poem and of course got
in. This was years ago.


PS whack-fol- de-diddle-o or whack-fol-de-daddio are both olde English. I have been singing them for more years than Terry Pratchett has been alive. My son's Irish band, when they are bored, tend to sing "Crack whore on the patio" which you can make out if you listen carefully.

#16 ::: Elric ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2003, 08:00 AM:

Well, shoot. Even I could see artistic merit in the Unsuccessful Attempt posted here. I could easily imagine seeing that in a horror zine, or as lyrics for a latter-day acid-rock song.

Maybe I should try to come up with a joyful treatment of Saki and Filboid Studge as a great breakfast. With attempts to rhyme both Filboid and Studge.

Nah. Too obscure.

#17 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2003, 09:26 AM:

It can't hurt to try. Anything you post to their site becomes a "poem" they have to track, process, and print in their anthology, without receiving any money for it.

#18 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2003, 09:41 AM:

Jane, I am suddenly struck by the vision of future scholars being fascinated by the ILP anthologies, in the same spirit that scientists today take core samples of sea-bottom sediments. If you were studying the 15th century, wouldn't you cherish a compendium of bad poems written by a broad sample of the population?

You know that phrase you get in lit.crit. and lit.hist., "Of historical interest only"? With these anthologies, it'll be "Of statistical interest only."

#19 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2003, 10:52 AM:

If you write a bad poem today
you can get these daft buggers to [state]
it's the best that they'll see
with no bird and no [hornet]
Marmite, upon a peak, in Darien.

I think that's the worst I can do, offhand.

#20 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2003, 11:52 AM:

Teresa: What makes you so sure that they print the ones for which they don't receive money?

#21 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2003, 02:00 PM:

Sorry, Jo, but Marmite, upon a peak, in Darien is entirely too rich an image for that to qualify. I strongly suspect that it will linger with me for a while, popping out to amuse me at the damnedest moments.

I'm afraid that good poetry is too inherent to your nature for you to ever really scrape the bottom of the poetry barrel.

I'm oddly reminded of David Bowie's psychotic cover version of "Alabama Song," in which he sings each verse in a different (wrong, in each case) key, while the drummer drums completely just out of time with him. It's always seemed to me that doing so must have been one of the hardest things that drummer has ever had to do.

#22 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2003, 04:20 PM:

"Scotty! I need a sonnet in three minutes or we're all dead!"

"Och, Cap'n, ye canna force the muse. Have ye got a rhyme for 'silvery Tay' somewhere on the bridge?"

#23 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2003, 05:41 PM:

Alan: Because it's fraud if they don't. They tell you when they send you the letter that you're a semi-finalist and will appear in the anthology.

Mike: In glorious array, on the opening day, of the present day, and upwards away, by night and by day, lovely and gay, in the beautiful bay, on a fine summer day, carelessly do stray, as clear as the day, in so grand array, my heart feels gay, on a windy day, won't be blown away, have the least dismay, a year and a day, come from faraway, without delay, I venture to say.

#24 ::: Anne ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2003, 07:15 PM:

Photons away, in a cage Faraday, near the phaser array, where the redshirts all play.

#25 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2003, 07:44 PM:

Ray, maybe the drummer was recorded separately.

John, I always imagined Kirk barking to Spock "Options! Spock, I need options!" and Spock saying, "There are some speeches in Richard III we haven't used yet."

Teresa, you mean the acceptance doesn't instantly show up in your mailbox as soon as you hit 'send?' Oh, the suspense!

#26 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2003, 04:55 AM:

Ray, maybe the drummer was recorded separately.

For his sake, I hope so, although it still can't have been easy for him to drum out of time. Speaking of which:

"During the recording of 'DREAM LOVER,' the members of the band were locked in separate rooms and could neither see nor hear what the others were playing" -- from the liner notes to the Plasmatics' album New Hope for the Wretched.

#27 ::: David Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2003, 11:11 AM:

There's never a Vogon around when you need one.

#28 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 07:12 PM:

Now that nobody's looking here any more, I reprint the earliest poem I wrote that I can remember:

When my little brother does slobber,
Him I do clobber.

(Age 6, I think. The title may be by one of my sisters. It was written for the 'newspaper' they were doing at that time. The little brother is fictional, or perhaps I was putting words in a sibling's mouth.)

Soon after, I was pleasing teachers (and nobody else) with poems like:

I have a little bunny.
My! But he is funny.
My bunny's name is Buzzy.
My! But he is fuzzy.

Later on, I wised up and spent more time writing extra verses to the Comet song, and parodies of things like "MacNamara's Band":

("...Oh, we play at wakes and weddings
And we really have a ball
And when we play at funerals
The corpse crawls up the wall...")

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