The 2016 Waltham Review Presidential Election Double Dactyl Challenge

Departing temporarily from familiar haiku territory, the Waltham Review now announces the 2016 Presidential Election Double Dactyl Challenge.  The double dactyl is a form of light verse, typically humorous like the limerick, but considered more difficult to construct.  A double dactyl has two stanzas, and each of those stanzas has four lines.  The first three lines of each stanza are dactylic dimeter (long – short – short – long – short – short) and the last line of each stanza is a choriamb (long – short – short – long).  The last lines of each stanza must rhyme with each other, and orthodox form requires this rhyme to be masculine, meaning that only the last syllables rhyme with each other.

A few other rules establish the boundaries of double dactyl orthodoxy.  The first line of the first stanza is typically nonsense, and “Higgledy-Piggledy” is common.  The second line of the first stanza is often a double dactylic proper noun, for example “Marcus Aurelius” or “Three-headed Cerberus”, and this proper noun is the subject of the poem.

One line in the second stanza, preferably the second line of that stanza, should be a double dactyl word, for example “Mesopotamia” or “Ultramagnificent”.  Paul Pascal, Anthony Hecht and John Hollander developed the double dactyl form, and it is claimed that they considered it inappropriate for this sixth-line double dactyl word to have been used in any previous double dactyl poem.  Obviously, this no-repeat rule has become more difficult to enforce as the number of double dactyls has increased over time.

Below is an orthodox double dactyl:

Higgledy piggledy,
Bacon, lord Chancellor.
Negligent, fell for the
Paltrier vice.

Bribery toppled him,
Finished him, testing some
Poultry on ice.
(by Ian Lancashire)

In my own double dactyl experience, adding additional patterns of rhyme and alliteration within the structure can create enjoyable (and almost Seussical…) effects.  But an orthodox double dactyl need only have stanza-ending masculine rhyme.

To honor our democracy and our upcoming Presidential election, I am proud to announce the 2016 Waltham Review Presidential Election Double Dactyl Challenge.  Submissions must relate in some way to our current political environment (the present Verblendungszusammenhang), and to one or both of the two major party candidates.  The Waltham Review will consider both orthodox and unorthodox double dactyls, but any unorthodoxies should be thoughtfully executed.  The Waltham Review will give awards in three different categories:

  • A general award “The 2016 Waltham Review Double Dactyl Prize” for double dactyl merit.
  • An award, “The 2016 Waltham Review Shortest Dactyl Award, Given in Honor of Donald J. Trump” for the double dactyl that is built with the shortest (non-nonsensical) sixth-line double dactyl word.
  • An award, “The 2016 Waltham Review Award for Creating Art When it Counts” for the best double dactyl submitted by someone who is currently housed in either a correctional or psychiatric institution.

The Waltham Review must receive submissions by midnight ET on October 15, 2016.  Winners will be announced on October 22.  The same submission can win more than one of the awards above.  Please send submissions either as a comment below this post or through email to  For email submissions, please put “DOUBLE DACTYL CONTEST SUBMISSION” into the email subject heading.

No other rules will govern this contest, and there will be no financial award for the winners.  Judges for the context may include, without being limited to, Editor-in-Chief Daniel Bergstresser and Senior Associate Editor/Fact Checker Enrico Palazzo.

Below are the submissions of the Waltham Review’s own Enrico Palazzo, who will also serve as a judge for this competition.  Warning: some of Mr. Palazzo’s submissions appear to skirt right along – perhaps even over – the edge that divides “unorthodox double dactyls” from “not double dactyls”.  Please approach these poems with caution.

Yanuko Banuko,
Manafort’s skills will still
Sell with the killer and
Kleptocrat goons.

With his mobility,
For his utility
Should resume soon!

Piffledy Sniffledy,
Trump went on riffs and he
Started a tiff on the
Stamina front.

Weirdly spontaneous,
A miscellaneous,
Mucousy stunt.

Kluxitee Klanitee
Even Sean Hannity
Has to say “Man! Did he
Blow that debate!”

Dean is the bloke who then
Claimed that the coke was the
Cause for the choke by this
Merchant of hate.

Kissingey Whissingey,
Hillary Clinton’s now
Poised to win over the
Right-wingers’ hearts.

Soon we shall see how their
Plans will restart.

Hellowdee  Mellowdee,
Trump is the fellow who
Turns into jello when
Put on the spot.

Lacking the critical
Knowledge a typical
Tyrant has got.

Higgledy Piggledy,
Son-in-law Jared is
Caught in a spot that is
Sorry to see.

With such toxicity
Makes his complicity
Treif-ish to me.

Hoozledy Doozledy,
Trump’s buddy Cruz is still
Pushing the ruse that his
Pop had no role.

But the lost frames of the
Abraham Z. show Ted’s
Dad on the Knoll.

(Artwork: “Piet” Mondrian (Dutch, 1872-1944) Broadway Boogie Woogie 1942.)

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    1. Thanks! That is great, but unorthodox – how about a 6th line double dactyl word? Shaw Zeeck used “megalomaniac” – and word that is “long – short – short – long – short – short”, for example “Mesopotamia”.


  1. Furiner, probly so,
    donny t mugs, “dunno”
    while deplorables fly
    his racist flags

    limbo low, don’t look back,
    fuck, just go home-still pg.
    6 in the rags!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Rosie, you’re fat,” says the
    obese plutocrat
    insecure about the
    size of his glans

    tantrum trump barks aloud
    panicking, “how can i
    hide these twee hands?”


  3. I have produced three entries. Please consider that I am not a native speaker, so if anything is ungrammatical or sounds weird let me know and I’ll try to fix it.

    #1. The debate
    Donald and Hillary
    Bickered predictably
    In the debate.
    She looked so competent,
    He looked so masculine,
    Hardly checkmate.

    #2. Physics and chemistry
    Stamina schmamina,
    Running for president:
    Clinton v Trump.
    Runnin’ on Dunkin’ and
    Right off the stump.

    #3. Back from the dead [1]
    Cries Justice Antonin,
    Whatever happened of
    My G.O.P.?
    Not merely “interpretive”
    Our chosen candidate’s
    On a crime spree!
    [1] Justice Antonin Scalia (which rhymes with “mamma mia” but I wasn’t able to use that) passed away on 2/13/2016, days after Cruz won Iowa and Trump won New Hampshire. He is justifiably surprised at how things turned out.

    Liked by 1 person

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