Winners of the West Side Rag Poetry Contest: ‘There Once Was a T-Shirt I Needed’

Hottest T in town.

By Carol Tannenhauser

Our West Side Rag T-Shirt-for-a-poem contest taught us several things.

Number one, people like our T-shirts a lot (though some would prefer colors rather than white.) Josh P wrote, “This shirt is the ultimate Zizmorcore grail.” Zizmorcore is a term for “wearable New York pride”, and refers to the great Dr. Zizmor of subway-ad fame.

“I want one of these so bad,” said Matt Paris, while Shivering and Shirtless wrote, “I can’t stress this enough: PLEASE sell these shirts! For charity! For web hosting costs! For paying contributors! For covering the cost of the shirts! I *almost* don’t care where my money goes or how much you want, I NEED this shirt!!” Laurel Gilbert pulled out all the stops. “You must sell those T-shirts. I need one large and one very small. WSR is a WS institution and needs to be celebrated. Name your price!”

The second thing we learned is that many of you are quite good at writing haiku poems. What’s a haiku? It’s simple: five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables. How to infuse those syllables with meaning? Ah, there’s the rub. Here are some Haiku poems sent in by our readers.

West Side Rag t-shirt,
Object of my desire
I’d wear you to shreds
Shivering and Shirtless

Mask hides emotions
I bought an eyebrow pencil
Hoping that will help
Christine E

soft light sweeps the gull
swoops and soars in windy chase
spirit sings aloft
Naomi Serviss

spandex clad bikers
terrorizing everyone
not a velodrome

Spring is in the air
scented cherry blossoms sway
crocuses appear
Susan F

We also learned about limericks. Poetry 101 taught us, “A limerick is a five-line poem that consists of a single stanza, an AABBA rhyme scheme, and whose subject is a short, pithy tale or description. Most limericks are comedic, some are downright crude, and nearly all are trivial in nature.” Here are some limericks sent in by readers, and one variation about the goats.

There once was a t-shirt I needed,
so to the comments section I pleaded:
“I’m cold and I’m styleless!”
But other commenters are witty and guileless,
So this shoddy limerick’s proof I’ve not cheated
Shivering and Shirtless

An Upper West Sider named Yates
Sped around Central Park on his skates
On one of his falls
He injured his b*lls
Which then made him useless on dates.

New kosher pizza place to hang out!
Isn’t that what New York’s all about?
With impossible meat
A forbidden treat
Becomes a fast favorite, no doubt!

There once was a neighborhood group
Who shared coffee and stories on stoops
They planted bulbs in autumn
Which by spring grew to blossoms
Together, they were a friendly troupe.

There once was a gaggle of friends
With Amsterdam and Central Park at its ends
Their newsletter shared stories
Of accomplishments, sorrows, joys, and worries
And events that all could attend.

There once was a block association so fine
They all lived on West Sixty-Nine
Fifty years this group’s gathered
Meeting each other was what mattered
They’ll gather again, post-pandemic, in due time.
West 69er

There once was a lassey
Her name was sweet Massey
She was a ranger in Riverside Park
Her friends Bella and Buckle
Replied with a chuckle
When she had an idea on a lark
Chalupa and Skittles
Both named after victuals
Inspired her to call out, “hark!”
“Let’s feast on these weeds,
Fill our tummies’ needs
Chow down from dawn to dark
“We’ll call it ‘vegetation management’
Or ‘poison ivy banishment’
We’ll really have made our mark
“But really we’ll just be eating,
Napping, neighbor-meeting,
Listening to birds sing and dogs bark
“They’ll think we’re so clever
We’ll make the land better
The best eaters of Riverside Park
Chalupa 4ever

Then, there was one that traveled to the beat of its own drum.

The Sabbath was coming as I walked up Broadway,
In search of a challah, I went to Fairway.
I got there and found the crowd was bizarre,
So I picked up my bags and I went to Zabars!
Michael H

And then there was an ode, rivaling Keats on a Grecian Urn.

“Ode on the West Side Rag”

Thou still unpulitzer’d site of newsiness,
Thou local-source of updates and good times,
Manhattan historian, who canst thus express
An opening or closing more succinctly than your rhymes:
What lox-fring’d bagel haunts about the mouths
Of locals or tourists, or of both,
In Temptee or with slivers of onions?
What tastes or flavors are these? What novel fish?
What Starbucks closed? What dirtbike was not chased?
What’s spotted in the park? What wild animals?
Heard breaking news is sweet, but that unheard
is sweeter; therefore, ye headlines, post on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more to read,
Post to the eyes headlines of no tone:
Fair scribe, down on the street, thou canst not leave
Thy news, nor ever can those streets be bare;
Bold newsboy, never, never canst thou hawk,
Though standing with the paper yet, do not grieve;
it cannot fade, though thou hast not thy coin,
For ever wilt thou hawk, and it be news!
Your cloth, nor ever bid the sleeves adieu;
For ever typing comments for ever new;
More West Side Rag! more West Side Rag!
For ever update’d and fresh to be enjoy’d,
For ever posting, and for ever news;
All writing Manhattan stories far above,
That leaves a reader aware and inform’d
A burning thought, and a NIMBY tongue.
Who are these coming to the comments?
To what black text, O mysterious poet,
Write’st thou that poem gunning for the shirts,
And all its silken tags with laundr’ing notes?
What western street by Hudson or park side,
Or corner-built with peaceful co-op board,
Is emptied of this folk, this Monday morn?
And, western side, thy streets for evermore
Will posting be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art posting, can e’er reply.
O west side rag! Fair newsly blog! with text
Of HTML and links to be clicked,
With comment chains and sponsored ads;
Thou, digital form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: scroll past or else!
When old age shall this generation meet,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other blogs
Than ours, a friend to all, to whom thou say’st,
“West Side Rag t-shirt is beauty,—that is all
Ye know in Manhattan, and all ye need to know.”
– Shivering and Shirtless (no more!)

Everyone whose poem appears above is a winner (one to a customer.) Also, we’re now officially out of that edition of the T-shirt — as well as of any sizes other than small and medium. Please send an email to westsiderag at gmail and we will tell you how to collect your prizes.

As far as WSR “merch”, it’s still in process. Anecdotally, it seems like the T-shirts were more popular than the mugs. Here’s what a couple of past winners suggested.

Jeff says:
This makes me think the West Side Rag needs to start selling merch. You could have a tote (West Side bag), a pennant (West Side flag), a baseball t-shirt (West Side raglan), various pet products (West Side wag) and more. Call the online store (and giveaways like this) West Side Swag.

Linda E. says:
Dear Jeff,
Your suggestion that the West Side Rag consider making merchandise like a tote (bag), pennant (flag), and pet products (wag) is great, but don’t you think they also need to make something like a kitchen towel, because that would be, ya know, a West Side…Rag. 🙂

See you next contest.

ABSURDITY | 12 comments | permalink
    1. Deep says:

      West Side Rag t-shirt,
      Object of my desire
      I’d wear you to shreds
      Not light you on fire

    2. JS says:

      Congratulations to the winners! Enjoyed reading them!

    3. Christine E says:

      This is so exciting! I last won a poetry contest, coincidentally also for haiku, in 1979. Thank you WSR for turning my one-off into a streak! Fellow West Siders, please watch for my next hit in 2063.

    4. Sari says:

      I like the mug, so does my coffee.

    5. Judith Kass says:

      Great shirt! Puleeese grow some more. I can buy at least 4 in various sizes. Thanks


    6. Judy Kass says:

      How can I BUY one, please?

    7. sg says:

      Great article…informative, educational (limerick AABBA rhyme scheme) and most importantly fun!

    8. Christine E says:

      So much creativity, earnestness, and amusement! Alicia and Michael H especially made me smile.

    9. mh says:

      To Alicia, “An Upper West Sider named Yates”–fabulous.

    10. tim says:

      great contest idea and very cool entries all around, esp susan f’s haiku – so hopeful; thank you everyone!

    11. JM Kass says:

      Please sell me some shirts
      I won’t wear it with skirts
      I’m not a ghoul
      I’ll look so cool
      I don’t roll in the dirts

    12. Sarah says:

      Bring on the Zizmorcore!!!