The 2nd Annual Chrishanukwanzmadanfestivus Contest Winner!

Thanks to everyone who took the time out of your annual Yuletide Panic—or coping with other people’s Panic—to participate in the Second Annual Chrishanukwanzmadanfestivus Poetry Contest.  Even if there was some bah humbugging over the rules this year.

Once again, I’m glad I set these things up for drawing instead of judging, because there’s enough Yuletide Panic going around and I can’t afford to hand out prizes to all of you, anyway.

Eleven names were placed in Sarah’s Lumpy* Red Felt Hat of Win and one was eventually** grabbed this morning by an extremely sleepy fuzznoggin of a six-year old, who had probably forgotten all about it by now.

Special recognition goes to Mike, who managed to work in the ACLU; Kev, who managed to fit ménage à trois into the scansion this year; indyclause, who created a sonnet of bitter exasperation; Linda and her granddaughter for alluding to cat barf in the cutest way; Grace for saying what we’ve all been thinking about automatic sorting machines; liligrif for almost agreeing to post a comment this time;  Siobhan, whose poem I will be sending to her mother-in-law unless I get some new pics of my fairy godkid; my two favorite Anonymous-numbered poets whose sense of humor deserve better than anonymity, and so who should expect much nagging in the coming year, and; George, who needs to learn to take a compliment, dude.

But, the winner of the $25 online gift card to Powell’s Books is:

Cha Cha

whose Hogwarts themed entry leaves Rita Skeeter in the dust.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me —

12 Grimmauld Place
11 pensieve lessonsThe Golden Snitch''.
10 ton-tongue toffees
9 phoenix feathers
8 fizzing whizbees
7 golden Galleons
6 Weasley sweaters
5 socks for Dobby
4 Privet Drive
3 deathly hallows
2 blast-end skrewts
and a thrashing from the Whomping Willow tree

Congratulations, Cha! I’ll send the card to you tonight with the e-mail you provided—if you would prefer I send it elsewhere, please let me know!

Christmas Stress

It’s possible no one would have noticed, but I thought I’d mention again that I’ll be taking the next two days off from the blog, as we have a houseful of company to enjoy, several hours of emergency Christmas Pageant rehearsals to attend, the traditional Last Minute Holy Cow I Forgot a Gift Waltz to choreograph,  and for some reason, our choir director has chosen Handel’s “A Child is Born” for the Christmas Eve service:

This is either a sign of great faith in the possibility of miracles or complete insanity, as there are only eight of us, one small organ, and—in the opinion of at least half of the Alto section—way the heck too many notes along the way.

But that’s half the fun, right?

Have a Happy Merry!

*And Damp, as the weather decided to spray our area with that iced napalm the meteorologists like to call Wintery Mix over the weekend.

**It took  few tries.  The first time, she grabbed all of them at once and nearly popped me in the nose with her fist, as well as potentially bankrupting me.  The second time, she tried with the hand holding the toothbrush, while telling me she was too tiiiiiiirrrrrrred, Mommy. This is the same kid who will be impossibly wide awake at 4am Thursday morning.

Poetry Wednesday: The 2nd Annual Chrishanukwanzmadanfestivus Contest!

Since the first Chrishanukwanzmadanfestivus Poetry Contest was such a blast last year, and because I haven’t had a poetry contest in a long time—and because it’s a week until Christmas and I’m seconds away from launching into that last-minute panicked running around in circles thing that I do when I realize that I’ve forgotten four people on my list and two of them a) live with me and; b) are nigh impossible to shop for, which seriously cuts into my Poetry Research Time (yes, it exists, thank you)—I decided we should make it an annual thing.

So here we are.

Christmas Stress

The Basic Rules:

1. Take  a standard December(ish) holiday* song, secular or sacred, and doggerel it up with your own words.

2. Post the results in the comments of this post, or send it to the e-mail address in the upper right hand corner there, if you prefer to remain anonymous—or if you can’t seem to keep it clean enough for a family blog even as borderline as this one (you know who you are).

If you do chose to e-mail it to me, and you’re a first timer, please put “Chrishanukwanzmadanfestivus,” or a reasonable spelling thereof, in the subject heading, because I’m being spammed like whoa at the moment, and if I can’t tell, I’m not opening it.

3. Once your results are posted or received, your name will be placed into Sarah’s Lumpy Red Felt Hat of Win.**  You can offer as many poems as you like and bribery is, as always, enthusiastically encouraged, but your name is still only going in once.

4. Deadline is December 22nd at midnight CST—that’s Chicago time, if it helps.

5.  If your name is selected out of the Lumpy Red Felt Hat of Win by a small child of the household, you will win a $25 online gift card to Powell’s.

6. The winner will be announced on December 23rd, as I fully intend to take the next two days off from the blog, if I can fend off the Internet Withdrawal Spiders.

Sounds like a pretty good deal, yeah?  I’ll bet a few of you have already chosen your song, too.

But wait—there’s more!

As a special Chrishanukwanzmadanfestivus Gift to you, I’m adding two extra rules:

First Extra Rule:

You have to use “The Twelve Days of Christmas” as a general format.

Though you may use any vaguely winter holiday you like.

To preserve sanity, please just post from the last day, like so:***

On the last day of Hanukkah, my true love gave to me:

8 times the presents
7 bowls of cold borscht
6 loaded dreidels
5 bags of Gelt
4 slabs of brisket
3 pans of Kugel
2 packs of menorah candles
and a latke as big as my head

Christmas Stress

On the whatever day of Festivus, my person gave to me

Six miracles of secular origin
Five grievance hours
Four feats of strength
Three tins’less poles
Two slices o’ meatloaf
And a forty-eight hour Seinfeld marathon

You know what?  You don’t even have to use a holiday—just the format:

On my twelfth day at the library, my patrons asked of me:

12 Computers Running
11 Tissues for Wiping
10 Novels for Reading
9 Songs for DancingLibrarian Stereotype
8 Works of Tolkein
7  Cheat Codes for Winning
6 Quotes and Sayings
5 Stupid Things
4 Spelling Words
3 Working Pens
and the Gentlemen’s Restroom Key

Easy, yeah?

But wait—there’s more!

The Second Extra Rule

You must include a Fifth Day, and make that line beltable.

Because otherwise, there’s no point in the first extra rule, amiright?

If you have any questions, put ’em below and I’ll make up some answers.

Contest starts now.

Go forth and doggerel!



Please note an addendum to the First Extra Rule, to be known as The Indy Clause:

Instead of using “The Twelve Days” format, you may choose instead to write a poem explaining how much you hate Christmas Songs and Why.

It still has to be at least five lines, and you still have to be able to belt out one of the lines—with vicious sarcasm, if need be.


*And thanks so much, lunar calendar, for making Hanukkah a last-minute, candle-scrambling surprise this year . . . maybe it’s my ingrained Episcopalianism rearing its inconvenient dignity again, but I just don’t think glittery birthday candles belong in the menorah my grandparents brought me from Israel.  There.  I said it.

Rhinestone cowgirl**Let us have a moment of silence for the Pink Cowgirl Hat of Win, which provided us with poetry winners for several years, despite causal abuse and frequent pancaking, before being irrevocably shredded during the Great Upheaval of Bedrooms this Summer.  Thank you, Pink Cowgirl Hat of Win . . . we shall ne’er forget thee.

***Except better, because there’s a difference between being a lover of poetry and a poet, and I’m standing knee deep in it.

Poetry Wednesday: Chrishanukwanzmadanfestivus Contest!

Since we’re all so busy with Hanukkah and Christmas and Solstice and Grinching and trying to deal with an unholy amount of unsolicited gift catalogs that are even now building up in a perfect, critical-mass metaphor for the stress of the season, I thought it was the right time to hold another poetry contest.

This one is easy.

1.   Take one of the myriad holiday songs—sacred or secular—that have been bombarding most of us since November 23rd—Jingle Bell Rocks, The Christmas Song, the Dreidel Song, Ma’Oz Tzur, Silent Night, O Come All Ye Faithful, whatever you happen to have stuck in your head.

2.  Go read Indy Clause’s guest post on writing good bad poetry doggerel.

3.  Make up your own lyrics.  You don’t have to use the whole song, just a verse or two will do.

On the First Day of Hanukkah, my dreidel won for me . . .

O Little Town of Boston, Mass., how doth thy muggers glean . . .

Jingle Bells, Batman smells . . .

You get the point.  It doesn’t have to be funny, but most of ’em seem to turn out that way.

4.  Post the results in the comments of this post—or e-mail it to me, if you want to keep your efforts anonymous or if you’re incapable of writing a clean(ish)* song to save your life (or you aren’t sure), using the address in the upper left corner of your screen, there.

If you accept this challenge, your name will be added to the Pink Cowgirl Hat of Win and may very well be selected to win . . . wait for it . . . Yes!  the Mug of Your Choice from Cafe Press,** which, if you’re just tuning in, is my go-to prize because a) they ship anywhere; b) the selection is insane; and c) who can’t use a mug?

Please include the title of the source song, please—though I’m sure we won’t have any trouble recognizing yours.

And since I would never ask you do to anything I wouldn’t try at least once, here’s my effort.

This started out weird and got . . . weirder, as these things apparently do . . .

‘Twas the Cat Before Christmas
(with heartfelt apologies to Clement C. Moore or Henry Livingston, Jr., depending)

‘Twas the cat before Christmas who tore through the house,
Jumped on my bed, and spat up a large mouse
On the dress I’d laid out on the duvet with care,
Delighted to have something special to wear.

Dreidel Cat!I pitched out the pieces of corpse I could find,
While visions of Black Death danced through my mind.
Then I scrubbed at the stain and snarled at the scamp
Who yawned and curled up on the rug for a nap.

When out on the drive there arose a small noise
Which was more than enough to disturb the cat’s poise.
He flew like a flash, the window to fill,
Tore up the curtains and threw up on the sill.

I thought that his fur like the new-fallen snow
Gave no sign of the devil’s heart hidden below—
When what to my horrified eyes should appear
But my date’s Chevrolet! Oh, crap, he was here!

With a blasphemous curse, I jammed on my hose quick
And checked the mouse stain—seltzer sure does the trick!
More rapid than models, I zipped up my dress
And realized my hair and my house were a mess!

Now brushing, now cleaning —“Stop prancing, you clown!
Quit tripping me, furball!  You’ll make me fall down!”
At the top of the stair I could hear my date call.
“I’m coming!” I said, as I dashed down the hall.

As wet leaves in a gutter pile up in a lump,
And then overbalance and fall with a thump,
So as the door opened, my heart likewise fell
My date had been drinking—again—by the smell.

His eyes, they were bleary, his face had a shine
It was clear he’d been having a whale of a time.
I called the night off—his mouth curled in a sneer.
He called me a name, and I backed up in fear.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard four thumping paws
The skidding and scraping of sharp little claws.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Out onto the porch, the cat came with a bound.

CathulhuHe was dressed all in white, from his head to his foot,
But you could tell that his temper was brimstone and soot.
That bundle of hellcat leapt on that drunk’s back
And he looked like St. Vengeance, poised to attack.

Though he’d puffed himself up like a ‘vangelist’s wig
I was worried about him—he wasn’t that big!
But a flash of a fang and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He yowled not a word, but went straight to his work,
And shredded the shirt off that asshattish jerk
As my cat laid down havoc with teeth and with toes,
I pulled back and punched the guy right in the nose.

He fell off the porch, through his schnozz gave a whistle,
But the cat landed clear, like the down of a thistle.
I hugged him and said, as the rat gave a scream,
“Happy Christmas, sweet boy—and a bowlful of cream!”

If I, the avowed non-poet, can manage this while watching Leverage last night,*** then I’m sure you can work wonders in a week.

You have until Tuesday, December 18th, at midnight CST (that’s Chicago time) to get it to me.  If you have any questions—about this contest—ask and I’ll make up the answers.

Go create something fabulously wrong!  And Happy Chrishanukwanzmadanfestivus!


*Sly innuendo is accepted and encouraged.  But this space isn’t really the place for blatant non-innuendo—my parents and co-workers read this blog and I brag on my kids, here.   It would be weird.

**Or an equivalent gift card, if you don’t wish to give me your real name or postal address.  Don’t worry about hurting my feelings over this—your privacy is important.

***I missed my new curfew by fifteen minutes, but I still managed an hour and a half more sleep than usual, so I’m not too upset.  Baby steps!

Poetry Wednesday Guest Post: How to Write a Really Fabulous Bad Poem

Some of you may know Independent “Indy” Clause through her perspicacious comments over at Forest for the Trees, Averil Dean‘s sandbox, and other fine sites or from her own terrific blog, Fangs and Clause, where she’s saving the world, one comma at a time.  If you don’t, what are you waiting for?  

She was the first to answer my Nanowrimo-fueled pleas for poetry guest posts, and although I’m pretty sure she couldn’t write a bad poem if she tried, I’m sure you’ll agree that fabulous is exactly the right word.

Thanks, Indy!


Thanks to Sarah W. for supporting good and bad poetry in all its forms! I’m Indy Clause, known better for ranting and raving about editorial issues, writing, and other things I can manage to connect to myself, editing, and/or writing. In respect to Sarah’s readers, I’m reigning in my usual foul mouth, and taking this as an opportunity to expand my vocabulary and exercising some creativity of expression. I’ve been told this is a character-building exercise.

But enough about me, let’s talk about poems we love to hate. Those of us with any interest in writing and literature have probably learned at least a little bit about what makes a good poem. A good poem is a collection of strong line breaks, an accumulation of powerful images, intense language, and possibly includes deft rhyme and meter, maybe some nice use of imagery and metaphor. Blah, blah blah.

But what is doggerel? My grandmother used to write us silly poems about the presents she gave us for December occasions. My next-oldest sister used to write them back. I don’t doubt that it was wanting to be like my next sister that made me write poems to begin with. (It also explains why purple is my favorite color, but moving on…)

Doggerel takes the conventions of poetry and applies them to subjects usually considered beneath the elevated perspective of poetry. According to the OED (which was the original Wikipedia), doggerel is “Of verse: comic, burlesque, and usually composed in irregular rhythm. Also: (of verse or writing) badly composed or expressed; trivial.” The first instance of the word appeared in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.

How do you make a bad poem good and yet still retain its intrinsic badness? Here are two major principles to keep in mind.

1. Choose a suitably ridiculous topic.

Doggerel is very message-based. All good taste and any remaining shreds of pride are subverted by the overwhelming need to communicate the message. What is the message? It’s whatever [the curse word redacted] you want it to be. Think cliché. Think about making fun of something or someone. Think about occasions that need to be recorded for posterity.

Doggerel is made to be read out loud to great laughter and/or rotten vegetable projectiles. You want people to both groan and secretly applaud your brilliance. Great for friends, bad for job interviews or submissions to Hoity Toity Poetry Journals.

2. Maintain either rhyme or meter at any cost (this includes friendships, marriages, unbroken bones, etc.).

How do we know that doggerel is a poem? Why by its obvious meter and rhyme of course! It is certainly not recognizable as a poem because of its literary merit.

What’s funnier?

If you loved me,
my dear, you wouldn’t shrink
from my coffee breath.


The sun is rising, dear,
and the day is looking clear.
Like always I get up to make
the caffeinated beverage without which I shake.
You knew what I was like when we vowed
to love each other until we were each wrapped in a shroud,
so why then do you shrink
from ever-loving kisses when my breath smells of that drink?

Let’s see what we’ve learned from the above exercise: Sacrifice meaning, sense, regular meter, and credibility for rhyme.

3. Other hints

3a. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Borrow someone else’s meter and/or rhyme:

Let me not to the marriage of true mates
Admit impediments. Love is not love
which alters when one hates the coffee taste
of morning breath. O, no! it is an
ever-fixed mark, that participates
in kissing, neither shrinking away nor
shaking with disgust. It is the star
of every morning dream, the antidote
to sleepless nights. The opportunity
to shower you with kisses in the morn
is a delight. If this be overcaffeinated and proved
I never writ, nor no woman ever loved.

(Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 never looked so bad.)

3b. When in doubt, add something bawdy.
3c. When in doubt, write something political.
3d. When in doubt, be bawdy about politics, making sure your rhyme is impeccable.
3e. Read out loud to make sure that the poem sounds ridiculous enough.
3f. When reading out loud to your target audience, be sure to present your doggerel in the most pretentious manner possible.

What are your favorite doggerels? Any advice for the masses?