Classic Poem Series Note: We are excited with the positive response so far to the announcement of the $500 H.O. Prize for Humorous and Original Slam Poetry!

And to celebrate and spread the enthusiasm, as many days as our internet works before the National Poetry Slam in Denver in August, we’re going to share poems that inspired this prize. These poems come from comedy, or utter weirdness, or savage intelligence, or pure exuberance.

Today’s post celebrates the fantastic, peerless performance of Ashley August on the Women of the World Poetry Slam Finals Stage this past March.

Those of you familiar with WOWPS know well the glory-and-harshness twist cone that is this event. One the one hand, women and nonbinary voices are elevated! Space is made for voices and narratives that at Nationals can be drowned out by teams of men enacting waterfalls of jizz, pardon my French, but that is not a metaphor that was just a real poem!

And on the other hand, if you go to WOWPS… make sure you want to be sad. Make sure you’re ready for 24 poems per bout, each one of which might be a beautifully crafted piece about something sad. Then go to two bouts a night, with a chance you’ll be sad 48 times, holding out for the possibility that maybe 3 or 4 times you won’t know what the poet is talking about? so you can be confused 4 times? and only sad 44 times.

Sad poems are important, don’t get me wrong… it’s just that other things are important too. If poets are only rewarded and valued when they are sad, if they want to stay in slam poetry they either have to stay sad, or be willing to almost certainly lose. The point of the H. O. Prize is to put some money on the dream that slam could include stories and works that don’t make people feel sad — because under the current trend, even if the whole slate of Finals competitors got happy and made funny and weird works, they’d lose the next year. Except…

EXCEPT ASHLEY AUGUST.

This year’s WOWPS Finals was a hot one, no lie. Edge of your seat hot. And despite everything I just said, it was a lot more fierce than sad, though sadness was the overall theme. Ebony Stewart’s win was righteous and correct and helped along quite a bit by a list poem that didn’t quite hit H. O. standards (regular list poem) but still broke current norms for WOWPS.

Still, wave after wave of fierceness, one fierce poem after another, is fatiguing to experience. So thank wherever-she-is-from for Ashley August, who gave us a finely layered rant that caused people to weep with laughter.

Outstanding attributes of Ashley’s poem related to the H. O. Prize include:

  1. Bigness.
  2. Complete integration of metaphor. Yeah, we all love a metaphor that pulls through a whole poem, but maybe those are just similes really, because when Ashley says “WHEN AN OCTOPUS GETS TOO STRESSED OUT, IT EATS ITSELF” it just feels a lot more real, you know?
  3. It’s a narrative poem that breaks form to add the octopus list poem, and then includes several repeating lists (“octopi, octopuses, octopussies”) that add exuberance and build theme at the same time. Perfecto.

We are really getting excited to see the submissions for the H. O. Prize at Nationals in August! Follow along with this year’s contenders for the H. O. Prize for Humorous and Original Poetry by liking us on Facebook.

Please follow and like H and O:
H. O. Tanager

H. O. Tanager is the author of Autograph Penis: An Adventure Through Competitive Performance Art and Haiku Princess: Poems in Ascending Order of Profanity. You can also find beautiful Haiku Princess prints and more at RedBubble.


H. O. Tanager is the author of Autograph Penis: An Adventure Through Competitive Performance Art and Haiku Princess: Poems in Ascending Order of Profanity. You can also find beautiful Haiku Princess prints and more at RedBubble.