The Marx Brothers
The Duck List Haiku Contest

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In the beginning of June [some years back], The Duck List (i.e., the "Why A Duck? Mailing List") was down for a couple of days. A few members expressed concern and wondered when we'd be back in business, so I decided to pass the time by announcing a contest to all the members whose addresses I had. I asked everyone who was interested to submit one or more haiku based on the lives and careers of the Marxes. These haiku would be collected by me and, once the list was back up, judged by fellow listers and prizes would be awarded to the top three haiku. (I also stipulated that I would be elligible to enter the contest and judging, but not elligible for voting or for a prize. And to keep everything absolutely fair I composed no haiku after I began receiving entries from other list members, so I could not use their poems for inspiration.) The prizes I chose were copies of three Marx-related books: "The Marx Brothers Encyclopedia" by Glen Mitchell, "The Marx Brothers Scrapbook" by Groucho Marx and Richard Anobile, and "Why A Duck?" by Richard Anobile, the order to be chosen by the winners in order of their preference.

As it turned out, the list was only down for a couple of days. But I extended the invitation to the entire list once it was up again and gave until the end of June for all entries. The response was pretty good.

Once the entries were received, I sorted them all alphabetically and sent them back to the list, where I set up some pretty simple rules for voting: Each list member was entitled to submit a vote for 10 haiku, giving each points from 10 (favorite) to 1 (10th favorite). At the end of the voting, the haiku scoring the most points would be awarded the top prize, followed by the haiku scoring the second most points, etc. However, no one would be awarded more than one prize, so if anyone had more than one haiku in the top three, the second would not be considered for an award.

So, after about two and a half months since the contest began, here are the final results. First, I'm going to present the results as regards prizes awarded, then the full standings. Thanks to everyone who participated, either in the contest, the voting, or both.

The Winners

As it turns out there are four winners, but one of them did not win for her haiku (I know this is getting complicated). First, the actual haiku winners.

  1. First Prize -- "Why A Duck?" -- Richard Shaw
  2. Second Prize -- "The Marx Brothers Encyclopedia" -- Elizabeth 'Showtune' Lee
  3. Third Prize -- "The Marx Brothers Scrapbook" -- Dan Brown

The fourth winner, and the actual winner of the book, "Why A Duck?" is Liz. Liz didn't win in the haiku contest, although she did do very well with her entries. However, when Richard Shaw won the top prize, he told me that he already had all the books in question, and anyway he didn't want me to have to bother shipping something to his home in the UK. Richard then asked me for advice on how to give away his prize.

I told Richard that the only way I could help him and still remain impartial would be to suggest he award his prize to the next-highest-scoring haiku, but that it was his prize to do with whatever he liked. He decided that, while my way was a good way, he would rather have his own mini contest to determine the winner; so he posed three Marx-related trivia questions to the list and said that the first to answer all three correctly would win his prize.

As it turned out, the winner was Liz, who not only answered all three questions correctly and in the shortest amount of time, she also answered so quickly that nobody else even bothered to try. And here's the ironic bit: Liz would've won by my criterion as well, since her haiku was the third runner up! Freaky...

The Final Standings

Well, it started out close. For a couple of weeks the lead bounced between several of the haiku that eventually wound up in the top ten. Then, a couple of days before the deadline for voting, it became obvious that the highest scoring haiku was pretty well sewn up, as the leader continued to strengthen his lead. But besides the top dog, the voting was actually very close. So here are the final results. (I've included here along with the total score, the total number of votes per haiku and the average score for each poem. The inclusion of these statistics and their effect on the final lineup is pretty arbitrary, but I thought it could also be pretty interesting.)

Rank Haiku Writer Score # of Votes Avg. Score
1 Spirit of chaos
Anarchy in comedy
Honed to perfection
Richard Shaw 67 11 6.09
2 Chicolini, spy,
shadows men on "shadow-day."
At's some joke, eh boss?
Frank Bland 55 7 7.86
3 Animal Crackers:
Stir horse feathers in duck soup.
Serve with cocoanuts.
Elizabeth 'Showtune' Lee 48 9 5.33
4 Cramped, crowded stateroom.
A manicure would be nice...
And two hardboiled eggs.
Frank Bland 46 7 6.57
5 Arx-may Others-bray:
Ill-stay Unny-fay in-ay
Ig-pay Atin-lay
Elizabeth 'Showtune' Lee 46 6 7.67
6 The director sits
He groans, the camera still whirs
Where have they gone now?
Dan Brown 43 9 4.78
7 Hail Freedonia!
This country will be at war
till the fruit runs out.
Frank Bland 43 9 4.78
8 Copying Harpo:
How many knives can I hide?
I'm in prison now.
Liz 39 7 5.57
9 Bags of childhood bliss
George ate them all while I slept
But I forgive him
Theresa Oborn 39 6 6.5
10 Sluggish Texas Day
Running Mule Distracts Bored Crowd
Four Singers Evolve
Dan Brown 39 4 9.75
11 Quick-witted mayhem.
Wild hair, eyebrows a'wiggle.
Moustache set on stun.
M.J. Hooper 37 7 5.29
12 Wit of barbed wire
You could never sleep, they say
What did you think then?
Ariadne 37 7 5.29
13 Jumping blithe fingers
Parading on ivory
And the music smiles
Dan Brown 37 6 6.17
14 Chico's piano,
Harpo's harp, Groucho's cigar,
(And sometimes Zeppo).
Elizabeth 'Showtune' Lee 32 5 6.4
15 Trench-coat eyes aglow.
Gentle-hearted maniac.
M.J. Hooper 27 6 4.5
16 Once Groucho's cigar
Would not light, so they got a
New brother, Zippo.
Elizabeth 'Showtune' Lee 26 4 6.5
17 A moustache can be
Problematic. Sometimes you
Give one snoop too much.
Elizabeth 'Showtune' Lee 25 4 6.25
18 A tired old man smokes
His bones frail, his mind still quick
The aged Groucho Marx
Dan Brown 23 5 4.6
19 A mute touched heaven
With his fingers on the strings
Look, he is smiling
Dan Brown 23 3 7.67
20 Strum on, you angel,
Gracing our world with your life.
Strum on, you angel.
Dan Brown 23 3 7.67
21 Poor Zeppo just there
No more substantial than air
Does anyone care?
Jack 22 7 3.14
22 Try to cross there with
A chicken and you'll find out
at'sa why a duck.
John Benz Fentner, Jr. 22 6 3.67
23 Garbage man's outside!
Tell him we don't want any!
Laughter everytime.
Liz 22 4 5.5
24 Stowaways revealed;
Sweet Adeline in barrels.
Three voices or four?
Frank Bland 21 4 5.25
25 A mute who said all
With his fingers on the strings
Look, he is smiling
Dan Brown 20 4 5
26 Six brothers, one dies
Army calls one, Zeppo quits
Three make history
Dan Brown 19 3 6.33
27 That lop-sided grin.
Shooting the keys, one, two, three.
Nimble-fingered wit.
M.J. Hooper 18 5 3.6
28 It's not fair, really
Groucho had ten years on you
Didn't stand a chance
Ariadne 18 3 6
29 Auction or swindle?
If they say one, you say two.
"Why A Duck?" indeed...
Frank Bland 18 3 6
30 Moustache cigar his.
Laughter joy in triplicate
hat, horn, piano.
M. Lucker 18 2 9
31 An angel that bounced
(Like one of your brother's checks)
Got to keep the harp
Ariadne 17 4 4.25

Haiku's season word is amagaeru (rain frog).

My explain is.....

When I saw a rain frog,
I tried to keep it like Harpo's scene from
"Monkey Business".
But frog gone.

Naomi Matsui 17 3 5.67
33 After a wise crack
Does Groucho think "good job"? Or -
is it no big deal?
Dan Brown 16 4 4
34 Sweet music surrounds
Glissandos sweep through your strings
Tears come to my eyes
Liz 15 3 5
35 "Why a duck?" he asks.
An existential question.
Why-a no chicken?
Elizabeth 'Showtune' Lee 14 3 4.67
36 He slowly evolved,
Rags to riches, shame to fame,
Adolph to Harpo
Dan Brown 14 2 7
37 You would go broke if
You spent A Day at both the
Races and Circus.

(And have none left for

A Night at the Opera

or Casablanca.)

Elizabeth 'Showtune' Lee 12 3 4
38 You played piano
And pinochle and you knew
Almost all the odds
Ariadne 11 2 5.5
39 Chico instigates
Harpo's silence speaks volumes
Groucho irritates
Jack 10 1 10
40 Signor Pastrami,
partners with The Professor.
It's the Ace of Spades.
Frank Bland 10 1 10
41 The police are here.
Take a letter, Jamison!
I'll show you what's what!
Frank Bland 9 2 4.5
42 Take or leave--you left
To take a quieter track
Film was not for you
Ariadne 9 2 4.5
43 Necklace gone astray.
"Silent Red" grabs the paper.
Check the hollow stump.
Frank Bland 8 2 4
44 Thick cloth blinds his eyes,
Sheets hide the keys, yet he turns
And asks for requests.
Dan Brown 6 1 6
45 What does Groucho think
After he makes a wise crack?
Does he think "good job"?
Dan Brown 5 2 2.5
46 If you were asked who
Groucho Marx was what would you
say? What could you say?
Dan Brown 5 1 5
47 The world decaying,
I call to heaven; Harpo
nods and strums louder.
Dan Brown 5 1 5
48 Want-a something hot?
Get your Breeder's Guide!
Frank Bland 4 2 2
49 "Harpo Speaks" is a
beautiful book written by
a beautiful man.
Dan Brown 4 1 4
50 Lydia's fine art
Versus Harpo's barking dog;
Who had more tattoos?
Elizabeth 'Showtune' Lee 4 1 4
51 The world decaying,
I call to heaven; Harpo
nods and plays louder.
Dan Brown 4 1 4
52 Strum on, you angel,
Gracing this world with your life.
Strum on, please strum on.
Dan Brown 2 1 2
53 Love the Marx Brothers
Laugh at all of their movies
Just not Room Service
Rich and Tammi 1 1 1
54 Swordfish speakeasy,
mistaken identities,
who will pay the tab?
Frank Bland 0 0 0
55 Ten grand lost by cards!
But Chico doesn't worry.
He'll win tomorrow.
Dan Brown 0 0 0
56 The money's run out;
"Hail and Farewell" needs backing.
Jumping butterballs!
Frank Bland 0 0 0
57 Three artists, one hunt,
two culprits and two victims.
Find left-handed moths!
Frank Bland 0 0 0
58 Too young for taming.
Romances, letters for sale.
Harmony of one.
M.J. Hooper 0 0 0
59 Unforgettable:
Cocoanuts, Crackers, Monkeys.
Not At the Circus.
Elizabeth 'Showtune' Lee 0 0 0

Please Note: The only reason I included haikus that didn't score at all was because everyone who fell into this category did pretty well with other entries, so I figured they wouldn't mind. At any rate, I'm the one who has the largest number of non-voted-for haiku in this contest!

And one more thing: If you think there's something wrong with the listing here, or you don't want your name listed next to your entry, or you'd like it listed differently, please contact Stefan. Thanks again for playing, everybody!

(This page was originally created by Frank Bland for his 'Why A Duck?' website)

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This site uses material originally created by Frank Bland for his website Why A Duck?. Frank did kindly give me permission to use this material.

The Marx Brothers - Los Hermanos Marx - האחים מרקס - マルクス兄弟 - Les Freres Marx - 마르크스형제 - Братья Маркс - Bröderna Marx - برادران مارکس - I Fratelli Marx - Братята Маркс - Bracia Marx - Germans Marx - الأخوة ماركس - 馬克思兄弟 - Αδελφοί Μαρξ - Irmãos Marx

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