Text Box: Humour Verse Winners First Quarter 2013


First: Sartor Resartus by Lynn Roberts

Second: Faites Attention! by Mary Oliver

Third: Dogs Must Be Carried by Chris O'Carroll

Click on the titles to read the three winning poems.


Judge’s Report for the first quarter of the humour verse competition 2013 from Sarah Willans


Judging a poetry competition is always difficult, but my goodness – this one was harder than most. The long list contained so many good ideas, so many funny, well-made poems, that reducing it to a short list of ten seemed an almost impossible task. At this stage, I was looking for reasons to reject the poem: a lapse in metre, a forced rhyme or two, a weak ending – and in humorous verse in particular, poems occasionally cross that fine line between biting wit and spiteful mockery; while the former can be wickedly funny, the latter can leave a decidedly unpleasant taste in the mouth.

If short-listing was hard, the final judging was even harder. I read poetry submissions every day in the course of my work, so the first thing I hoped for was originality: subjects and voices that felt fresh and new to me, rather than rehashes (however well done) of ideas that I see regularly.

Secondly, I was looking for creative uses of language: poems that explored the possibilities of words to surprise and delight. Thirdly, I wanted to feel completely confident, as I read, in the poet’s ability to deliver what he or she promised – so a sustained control of form and pace was vital.

What I was emphatically not looking for – because, like many judges and editors, I generally dislike them – was a centred poem. I was also fairly certain at the outset that I would not pick as a winner a poem that changed metre midstream. As usual, however, the final result proves that such self-imposed rules are made to be broken. Let that be a lesson to me…

I wish there had been more prizes, and I’d like to thank all of the long and short listed poets for brightening up several of my working days. Keep writing!


1st: Sartor Resartus

The winner grabbed me in its first line with ‘couth’ and ‘kempt’, and this device is sustained throughout the piece, playing its archaic, formal language against entirely contemporary imagery to create a strong and original voice. This poet is squarely in control of her poem, and S.4’s shift in metre marks an intentional change of pace as the poem’s ‘I’ works herself up into a frenzy of outrage – climaxing in the poem’s final stanza, whose one-word lines seem almost to have been spat on to the page! And if ‘bepantled’ isn’t a real word, it certainly should be.


2nd: Faites Attention!

Humorous poems more often than not use rhyme and metre to set up a sense of expectation in the reader, which can then be fulfilled or confounded with hilarious results. Writing a funny poem in free verse is not easy, and I have seen only a very few that I would regard as successful. This is one of them, and I like it so much that I can even overlook its centredness. Like all good poems, it looks as though it just happened like that – but make no mistake, the choice of present tense, the line breaks, the condensed language: all of these signal a poet who knows her craft.


3rd: Dogs Must Be Carried

This is a simple but original idea, beautifully handled by the poet. Again, the piece is lifted out of the ordinary by the language used, which creates a strong and engaging voice, full to bursting with helpless frustration – and of course, it’s that impotent rage that makes us laugh. And if that doesn’t get you, S.3’s rental puppies, riding bemusedly up and down the escalator tucked under the arms of frazzled commuters, surely will!


Shortlist in alphabetical order


A Moving Experience by Jenni Wyn Hyatt

Alleluia! by Martin Parker

Car Park King by Lucy Brandt

Dogs Must Be Carried by Chris O'Carroll

Faites Attention! by Mary Oliver

House Move by Jennifer Cousins

On The Beach by Martin Parker

Sartor Restartus by Lynn Roberts

The Poet on Form by Tony Watts

Traces by Keith Langham


Long list in alphabetical order


A Horse, a Horse, my Kingdom for a Horse by Tez Watson 

A Moving Experience by Jenni Wyn Hyatt

Alleluia! by Martin Parker

Car Park King by Lucy Brandt

Digging It by Alan Charie

Dogs Must Be Carried by Chris O'Carroll

Faites Attention by Mary Oliver

Haiku (No Title) by Vuong Pham

House Move by Jennifer Cousins

Labour Daze by Susan Colgan

Macho Man by Adrian Shaw

My Sporty Car by Bridget Carter

NHS Holidays by Judith Wilson

Night-time Navigation by Andy Fawthrop

On the Beach by Martin Parker

Pay Back by Mary Oliver

Peggotty-Sue by Adrian Shaw

Qua by Susanna Clayson

Recycling by Adrian Shaw

RelationHit.Com by James Woolf

Sartor Restartus by Lynn Roberts

The Note by Mike Stenson

The Poet on Form by Tony Watts

The View from Westminster Bridge by Adrian Shaw

Tonight’s the Night by Kay Seeley

Top-to-Toe through Time by Mick Foreman

Traces by Keith Langham

Unwanted by Tez Watson 

Ventry by Peter Ulric

Viva el Devon by Bruce Harris