Style Invitational Week 1030: That cinquain feeling

By Pat Myers,July 18, 2013
(Bob Staake for The Washington…)

If a

Tree falls in the

Woods and no one’s around,

Does it make a sound? Listen close:

“Oh [expletive].”

(Joseph Romm, Week 167, 1996)

For only the second time ever, the Style Invitational showcases the cinquain, a form of poetry you might have last encountered as an elementary school language arts assignment. The form seems to have been invented almost exactly 100 years ago by one Adelaide Crapsey, whose own cinquains were lauded by the Czar, the Empress’s predecessor, as “the most effete and vomitacious versifications, poems so ickily precious and pretentious they make haiku look like Kipling.” Sample: “Keep thou/ Thy tearless watch/ All night but when blue-dawn/ Breathes on the silver moon, then weep!/ Then weep!” It’s a shame that the form hasn’t been named for her in tribute.

As in the example above by 342-time Loser and now Famous Climate Change Activist Joseph Romm, a Style Invitational cinquain will not be ickily precious and pretentious. This week: Write a clever cinquain. The five-line form is straightforward: first line, two syllables; second line, four syllables; third line, six; fourth line, eight; fifth line, two. Besides needing to be original and printable, there are no other restrictions. You may add a title.

Winner gets the Inkin’ Memorial, the Lincoln-statue bobblehead that is the official Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives, perhaps appropriately for this week’s genre, Pukin’ Paul, a little solar-power bobblehead whose head bobbles incessantly into and out of a little plastic toilet; it’s like having a stomach-turning GIF on your windowsill. Donated by Nan Reiner.

Other runners-up win their choice of a yearned-for Loser Mug or the ardently desired Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get a lusted-after Loser magnet. First Offenders receive a smelly, tree-shaped air “freshener” (FirStink for their first ink). E-mail entries to or fax to 202-334-4312. Deadline is Monday, July 29; results published Aug. 18 (online Aug. 15). No more than 25 entries per entrant per week. Include “Week 1030” 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 The subhead for this week’s honorable mentions is by Mark Richardson; the alternative headline for the “next week’s results” line is by Chris Doyle.. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at

Report from Week 1026

in which we asked for “if . . .”/“you might be . . .” jokes in the five categories shown below. Lots of great one-liners; we should have room for more of them next week as well.

The winner of the Inkin’ Memorial:

You might be spending too much time at work . . . if your daughter has an annual Bring Daddy to Home Day. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge, Va.)

2. Winner of the beanie with noodly tubes bursting out of it: You might be humor-impaired . . . if you think Marx Brothers movies are metaphors for the struggle of the proletariat to throw off the yoke of oppression from the bourgeoisie. (Art Grinath, Takoma Park, Md.)

3. You might need to do some shopping . . . if your newest outfit has a “Made in U.S.A.” label. (Michael Greene, Alexandria, Va.)

4. If you can’t wait to get home and kiss her and hold her and run your fingers through her soft, luxuriant hair, you might be too much of a cat person. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

A might short: honorable mentions


. . . if your kids refer to you as “that other guy who sleeps next to Mommy.” (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

. . . if you have to check your computer to find out whether the hands on your watch are pointing to 7 a.m. or 7 p.m. (Elden Carnahan, Laurel, Md.)

. . . if you ask your kid, “How’s school?” and she says, “I’m not allowed to talk to strangers.” (Denise Sudell, Cheverly; Beverley Sharp)

. . . if you come home and reflexively flash your ID badge — and the person at the door checks it. (Seth Tucker, Washington)

. . . if the office cleaning lady has a honey-do list for you. (Jim Stiles, Rockville, Md., a First Offender)

. . . if at Christmastime, your family wears sticky tags that say “Hello! My Name Is . . .(Michele Uhler, Fort Washington, Md.)

. . . if you refer to weekends as “uninterrupted productivity time.” (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

. . . if your husband has changed your ringtone to that Gotye song. (Danielle Nowlin, Woodbridge, Va.)

. . . Wait a minute! There’s no such thing as spending too much time at work in D.C. (John Kupiec, Fairfax, Va.)


. . . if your last meal was lemon rinds sauted in ketchup with a side of pickled ginger. (Doug Hamilton, College Park, Md.)