Week 850 Dead Letters: Write a humorous obit poem

With just a bit of impish wit
John Mortimer quite gaily
Gave to us that cranky Brit,
Old Rumpole of the Bailey.
Because Sir John had class and fame,
And he wrote with grace and art,
Few people noticed that the name
Was a nether body part.

The year was barely half over when the Blathering Class began noting that 2009 seemed to be an especially big year for celebrity deaths. Perhaps that might have more to do with an ever-broadening definition of celebrity, but in any case, you'll have plenty to work with in our annual contest.

This week: Write a humorous poem about someone who died in 2009, as in the example above by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gene Weingarten. Also this week: In response to the plea of Uberloser Russell Beland (who doesn't think much of the Empress's poetry-judging ability), we bring back an old contest as a second option -- give us a humorous, short obit headline for someone who died in 2009.

Winner gets the Inker, the official Style Invitational trophy. Second place gets the cute critter (suitable for wall hanging) pictured here, sent to us by Howard Walderman of Columbia, who wrote that he found in his attic "the enclosed trophy for winning Week 307. Described as a 'genuine cow-hoof flask,' it has been in storage for a decade . . . I am 'regifting' it; perhaps it is unique, ugly and useless enough to be re-awarded as a contest prize." Now that we can run photos of prizes, you can see that it's no flask. It definitely has some hoof in it, though.

Other runners-up win their choice of a coveted Style Invitational Loser T-shirt or yearned-for Loser Mug. Honorable Mentions get one of the lusted-after Style Invitational Loser Magnets. First Offenders get a smelly tree-shaped air "freshener" (Fir Stink for their First Ink). One prize per entrant per week. Send your entries by e-mail to losers@washpost.com or by fax to 202-334-4312. Deadline is Monday, Jan. 11. Put "Week 850" in the subject line of your e-mail, or it risks being ignored as spam. Include your name, postal address and phone number with your entry. Contests are judged on the basis of humor and originality. All entries become the property of The Washington Post. Entries may be edited for taste or content. Results will be published Jan. 30. No purchase required for entry. Employees of The Washington Post, and their immediate relatives, are not eligible for prizes. Pseudonymous entries will be disqualified. The revised title for next week's results is by Kevin Dopart; this week's honorable-mentions subhead is by Jeff Contompasis.

Report from Week 846, in which we asked for end-of-year holiday letters from well-known people:

The winner of the Inker

We took first place in several competitions this year, and never once finished worse than second! And isn't it nice that the team will have lots of time with family after the holidays? I know I will. -- Best wishes, the Zorns (Peter Metrinko, Gainesville)

2. the winner of the soap that looks like a bag of water with a goldfish in it:It was a helluva year. Good news, though -- I'm finally in the inner circle. -- Dante (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

3. Sorry about the bulk mailing, but I'm getting into the spirit of "doing more with less" this season. Bernie has recently moved into a huge home in North Carolina -- and would you believe there's a bathroom in every room! -- Ruth Madoff (Jim Noble, Lexington Park)

4. Sorry to learn of Sparky's demise, though he'll make it to nearly 50 in dog years. Your mother's passing must be quite a shock, too, but at least she won't see it coming. . . .
See you in the future! -- Nostradamus (Craig Dykstra, Centreville)

Epistle-Whipped: Honorable mentions

The past year has been sooo hectic, so we're looking forward to kicking back at our reunion with the moon shot crew next year in Houston! -- Michaele and Tareq (Hal Handerson, Arlington, a First Offender)

Hey, y'all. Taylor asked me to help out with sending out the letter this year, so I just wanted to let you know that Beyoncé sent one of the best holiday letters of all time. -- Kanye (Kevin Dopart)

This year's big news, of course, has been my new job. Yeah, it's just a secretary position, but there's lots of travel to interesting places (first class!) and fabulous business dinners. And my new boss is HOT!
Happy holidays -- Hillary (Chuck Koelbel, Houston)

What a great year we've had! Three of our children have left the nest, but the other four will be with us awhile. We had a great visit with Uncle Sam this year, and can't wait till he comes to see us again. -- General Motors (Ed Gordon, Georgetown, Tex.)

Happy Hanukkah, everyone!
Buon natale from Hotel Omerta in Palermo! What a year -- justice has triumphed at last!
To my dear family and friends who supported me: Grazie mille! I will never forget.
To those who didn't: Trust me, I won't forget you either. -- John Jr. (Stephen Gold, Glasgow, Scotland)

. . . and imagine, our darling daughter Elin was able to beat Tiger using his own clubs! -- The Nordegrens (Pie Snelson, Silver Spring)

I did a lot of work with Jewish charities this year -- I'm so glad they felt they could come to me for help. -- Bernie M. (Stephen Dudzik, Olney)

Merry Christmas to the Girls in Hollywood:
I'm now involved with a foreign royal -- we met on his private island. He's hairier than I like 'em, but you should see his muscles! -- Ann Darrow (Lawrence McGuire, Waldorf)

. . . and a Happy New Year to you! Now, if you could take a moment, could you let me know:
1. Did my holiday newsletter meet your expectations? (5 = strongly agree; 1 = strongly disagree)
2. Thinking of other holiday newsletters, would you say this one was . . .
-- J.W. Marriott Jr. (Sue Lin Chong, Baltimore)

Next week: Questionable Journalism, or Take News for an Answer