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Former Iowa Poet Laureate Launches Bad Poetry Contest

Mary Swander, former Iowa Poet Laureate and current executive director of AgArts, a non-profit designed to imagine and promote healthy food systems through the arts, announces the creation of The Great Amish Belt Loop Bad Poetry Contest. The contest is run through “AgArts from Horse & Buggy Land,” a podcast that explores the life of the Amish, sustainability, and the wider rural environment.

The entry fee is $10 with a prize of $100 and a handmade leather belt fashioned by the local Amish harness maker. Winning poems will be broadcast on the Buggy Land podcast.

The impetus for the contest came from podcast Episode #19: Bet the Farm where Mary Swander reads an article from a 1916 local newspaper that asks its readers not to send in any more bad poems “written during a day dream or a moonstare with a cat yowling on the back fence or a love-sick period blubbering that would scare a buzzard off a dead horse.” These poems, the editor writes, will find no welcome in the paper.

But Swander welcomes such poetry on her podcast and asks contestants to read their entries directly into the AgArts website where they will find more information.

Bad Poetry Contest Rules:

  1. Your poem must be bad. Really bad. All good poems will be immediately rejected.
  2. Your poem is limited to 100 words and must be posted on the website
  3. Please provide your name, email address, and belt size.
  4. Your poem must contain these phrases: “A cat yowling on a back fence” and “a buzzard on a dead horse.
  5. The top bad poems will be broadcast on a future podcast.
  6. The winner will receive $100 and a handmade Amish belt.
  7. Deadline: January 15.
  8. Judge: Ruby Yoder, author of The Grossmommie Rules.

AgArts from Horse & Buggy Land is produced by Rick Brewer at Brewhaha Audio Productions and partially funded by a grant from the American Rescue Plan through the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and the Iowa Arts Council, the Ellithorp-Werner Fund at the Oregon Community Foundation, and the Kallio-Levine Fund.