A poetry contest for those living with a disease or ailment!

Allergic, arthritic, diabetic
Here's the place to wax poetic
We eschew the gloom and doomer
Our Rx is wit and humor.

$1,000 prize given each quarter to the best witty and humorous poem as curated by our panel. See examples here, and submit yours today!


Pain/Poem/Prize founder, pen name Dr. Facocta, believes there is a silent majority of undiscovered poets, and he is putting his money where his mouth is to unleash them on an unsuspecting public. Poetry populism perhaps?

When you’re the brunt of a dastardly disease -
Tinnitus, Asperger’s or even just fleas,
You can cry…
Or you can versify.

Put your pain into verse, that is, for the chance to win $1000 every quarter. Pain/Poem/Prize came about when the founder was recovering from an eight hour surgery for the removal of a malignant tumor. He was about to send an email to his oncologist to see if he could get a booster Pfizer vaccine when he guessed that the doctor was probably tired of getting such requests. He decided to send his email in the form of a poem:

Dear Dr. Demetri,

With such an alliterative salutation as Dear Dr. Demetri,
It is my vote
To attempt an equally poetic note:
As it appears I am not yet circling the drain,
Though still with a modicum of manageable pain,
From my decidedly musical leiomyosarcoma.
Me thinks it would be an ironic shame
To be stricken with the covid of such fame.
Any chance a Pfizer booster I can get?
I’ll be eternally grateful you can bet.

When he received an enthusiastic response, he decided to start a contest to encourage people with various afflictions to choose poetic communications over prose. Wit and self-effacing humor are at a premium.

Are you in? Are you in?
Every quarter a thousand bucks the best poem will win.
With our little revolution - who knows?
Poetic communications may soon replace prose.

Poetry vs Prose

Basic introduction to poetry, to how it differs from prose, and to figurative language.

Poetry and Prose - Introduction
The purpose of prose is generally to inform, whether it be to persuade someone on the evils of capital punishment, to create a dramatic narrative, or simply to explain how to peel a grape. Poetry, on the other hand, is generally written to create an emotion, a reflection, a mood. But aside from this overriding difference in the purpose of stringing together words, the distinction between prose and poetry is often not clear. The most obvious difference to me is that poetry makes heavy use of what is called “figurative language” while prose is more direct. Poetry makes use of not just what words denote (their literal dictionary definitions), but also what words connote (what they suggest, what feelings they give you). Another important element of poetry is that it makes use of not only what words mean, but also what they sound like. Do the words sound soft or hard? What kind of rhythm is created by the words when they are
all assembled in a line? What is the effect of creating pauses or breaks between words or lines of words? Writing, reading, or just listening to poetry includes the many of the same elements of playing or listening to music: rhythm, tone, cadence. Much in the same manner as a musician who feels free to play
around with a melody, or a painter who decides to splash some colors outside the proverbial box, poetry encourages a poet to play with words, to use language unexpectedly, to express oneself creatively without feeling constrained by the rules of prose.

I have two favorite short comments that I think help clarify what I’m saying about poetry. The first is attributed to a colorful mayor of New York, Mario Cuomo, who said that successful politicians should campaign in poetry and govern in prose. Obama was a perfect example of this. He knew when (and
how) to be inspirational and when he needed to deliver the facts. Another of my favorite comments is attributed to Robert Frost who once defined poetry as, simply, that which is lost in translation. One can translate the meaning of a poem, but that’s all. The essence of a poem, what gives it its heart and soul can only exist in the language it was created in.

The last thing I will say about poetry before describing some of the mechanics is that even though poetry is meant to be enjoyable or stimulating, often it is not. I think it’s important to acknowledge that lots of smart and literate people just don’t like lots of poems. So my advice to readers who encounter a poem that doesn’t work for them is simply to skip it. Unless reading a particular poem is an assignment from a heartless teacher, I can’t think of any reason to force yourself to read poems that mean nothing to you and you’re not interested in pursuing. A surefire way to turn someone off from enjoying all poetry is to make them feel guilty or stupid if they admit to not liking or understanding something they are told is brilliant. To be sure, there are lots of poems that seem “difficult” on first hearing or reading but are worth giving second or third chances to get to know better. I also admit that there are lots of poems (classics as well as contemporary) that make me want to start screaming obscenities. So even if you encounter a few poems that make you question what all this wordplay is about, this doesn’t mean that there might not be another poem out there that one day you will want tattooed down the whole length of your arm.

Copyright 7.19.2021
James Hallowell (Ollie)

For the full version of this essay, download the pdf below:


Example 1:

This is a poem about tinnitus by Michael Miller. He is living poetry in motion. Even his walk is musical. When a co-worker couldn’t get past his wife leaving him, Mike wrote him a country western song during a break. He is the inspiration for this site.

Michael’s facebook page is www.facebook.com/pages/Poems-by-Autism-Santa

You can visit the page he has with his son and learn how he came to be known as Autism Santa.


A Hundred Thousand Locust by Casino Mike

Every day I wake
With this ringing in my ear
Morning noon and night
I’m living in despair

People always say
You must try to mask it.
I’d rather rap it up
And put it in a basket.

Send it down the Nile
For someone else to find.
Just like they did with Moses.
To get if off my mind.

My hope is one day
It will let me lie in peace
But that is like searching
For that mythic Golden Fleece

So I guess I’ll live with it
Like all the others do
Tinnitus is no joke
There’s nothing you can do

There is no common cure
Just a bunch of hocus pocus
Sometimes it is so loud
Like a hundred thousand locust

Example 2:

Ollie shares his thoughts (in poem form of course) about his lower back pain:

To bend forward is as far as I can go.
An inch, maybe two, then it’s “Oh no!”
But what I want is to prance
Once again learn to dance
Not waltz: I want to master the tango.

Example 3:

Snap, crackle and pop
For breakfast, once sweet;
But it’s now what I hear
From my neck to my feet.

That kids’ breakfast dish
Once thrilled with delight;
But now it’s my theme song
From morning to night.

I get out of bed
And snap goes my back.
There’s pain in my legs:
My sacroiliac!

I walk down the stairs
And my knees start to crackle.
The pain in those joints
Makes me feel maniackle!

I get in the car
And my ankle goes “Pop!”
I wish all the pain meds
Could make it all stop!

They say as you age,
You return to your youth;
Snap, Crackle, Pop:
It sure is the truth!

by Ann Dunlap

Example 4:

Diagnosis Scoliosis

Double S curve down my spine
listen to me cry and whine
for a year or two that is
Until I got the gist of this
Learn to love the back you're given
you can do a lot of livin
you have pain but you can move
come on now get in the groove
so live and laugh and never swerve
it's all about how you take the curve.

by Johnette D Loefgren

Example 5:

Ginned Joint

There are bees
jiving in my knees,
stabbing and hiving
and doing as they please.

Or is it wasps,
each with a grin,
stinging me along,
over and over again?

Or could be a spider
with a nip like a Bruin
that reduces my knees to rack and ruin.

Whatever the twinges in my hinges,
however arthritis
romps and mugs,
I try to hide my cringes
and just say that I have bugs.

by Julie McNeely-Kirwan

The Winners

Check out the winning poem below for the first Pain Poem Prize contest ending Nov. 1st 2021

We are thrilled to announce the winning poem from the first round of Pain Poem Prize by author: Will Ruha

With Laocoon, I Commune (and Not a Moment Too Soon)

How we skipped to the street, over lawns and concrete,
to meet the musical truck;
and there, in the heat, buy a sweet frozen treat,
to eat, for under a buck.
And when Mama made cake, or those cookies she'd bake,
we would each take some batter to lick,
or swipe cookie dough with furtive gusto,
sugary, savory, and thick.
Not a holiday meal ever lacked in appeal
with pastries, confections, and pies.
Oh, the joy I would feel, consuming with zeal,
the sweet desserts, Mom would devise.
Older today, I look back with dismay
at my ways, which are now, to me, crimes.
For as memory drifts, reality shifts,
and I live in more perilous times.
Though to sweets, I'm still driven, I've sadly been given,
-driving my body's entreaties -
as sure as you please, an eponymous disease,
from a "Greek bearing gifts," Diabetes.

-by Will Ruha

*Note: Laocoon, a high priest of the Troy, was allegedly punished by the Gods for trying to tip off the Trojans that the Wooden Horse was a dastardly trick.

Other Stuff

This is where we share other great resources related to poetry.

Great New York Times article about poetry: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/17/magazine/poetry-repetition.html?smid=em-shareAnother NYT article about the importance of poetry: Why Poetry Is So Crucial Right Now...It helps us pay attention to the things that matter. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/29/opinion/poetry.html?smid=em-share


Every three months, our committee meets to select the best poem of the quarter about a disease or ailment with which you are living, and awards $1000 to the author. Wit and self-effacing humor are at a premium! The next winner will be selected in November 2021. Please see our full terms and conditions below.

Terms and Conditions: This contest does not require any purchase to enter. Must be 18 or older to enter. All copyright and original work will remain with the author. The next winner will be chosen on November 15th, 2021 and all entries must be received by November 1st, 2021 ET. The poems are judged by their cleverness, wit and self-effacing humor.