Allen M. Weber says he hadn't thought about becoming a poet until he fell in love with one.
The winner of the 2013 Daily Press poetry contest, Weber lives in Hampton and works at Newport News Shipbuilding, where he teaches radiation safety. His infatuation with poetry began, he said, around the time he started dating the woman who would later become his wife.
In those days, Tracy Rice, the object of his affection, was living in the Ghent neighborhood of Norfolk and taking classes in the creative writing program at Old Dominion University. "I started hanging out with her and going to poetry readings," Weber said. "I saw how a poem could move a crowd, make them stand up, laugh, cry. I thought, 'Wow. That's amazing.'"
Rice and Weber were married in 1994, and today they're the parents of boys ages 11, 16 and 17. Weber's wife now teaches English at Bethel High School. She's still a poet, too, but one who keeps much of her work to herself.
Weber, on the other hand, enjoys entering contests and sharing his work. His honors include the 2011 Edgar Allan Poe Memorial Prize and Poetry Society of Virginia's 90th Anniversary Poem Award, presented earlier this year.
An online biography says his poems have appeared in journals and anthologies, including Snakeskin, Prick of the Spindle, Terrain and Lyrical Reflections of the Great Lakes.
At age 52, he figures he's written a few hundred poems. All of that creative output can be traced back to the early days of his romance.
One of two poems that earned Weber the title of Daily Press Poet Laureate describes scenes and emotions from those early days around Ghent.
"Encore (For Tracy)" details the end of an artistic performance in somewhat somber terms. The end of one act, though, was the beginning of another.
"Tracy was a sought-after single woman at the time. We'd go out, and the singer of a trio would shamelessly sing to her, even though I sat right there with her," Weber said, chuckling. He said that impressive works of art were created in her honor.
All that attention felt a bit strange and uncomfortable for Weber, a former submariner in the Navy.
"She's living in artistic Ghent, with all these artistic suitors. At the time, I was just a shipyard worker. They were always nice to me, but I often got the feeling they were thinking, 'What is she doing with him?' It was like the Joe Jackson song, 'Is she really going out with him?'
"That part of her life came to a close when she met me."
"Encore (For Tracy)" started out many years ago as an anniversary note from Weber. "It's based on a combination of real and not real events, a hodgepodge. Maybe that's why it's been so hard to write. After all these years, I think I finally got it to where I want it to be."
Strangely enough, his wife hasn't seen the finished product. That's not unusual, he said. "And I usually don't see her poems. I think we make each other a little nervous (when it comes to writing)."
Yet, her poetry opened a literary door for him.
"I am truly her biggest fan," Weber said. "She's the one who inspired me to want to write."
WHAT IS THE POETRY CONTEST?
The 2013 Daily Press poetry contest honors creativity among local writers. Some 109 works were submitted through the month of April, National Poetry Month. Reader Facebook votes determined a Readers' Choice Award. A panel of Daily Press staffers picked three winners: an honorable mention, a runner-up and the 2013 Daily Press Poet Laureate. Each gets a $25 gift card.
"Growing Into It"
By Terry Joseph
Starched and scrubbed, this youth towers
over me in the kitchen as though he belongs here
in the dark before sunrise. Crickets chirrup
outside the window. We blink through first cup
of the morning. Rustle of my husband's footsteps,
too early for shoes, hastened to rite of passage:
navy blue tie over, around, under, through.
Folded cap tucked beneath belt, polished shoes
reflect glare of bulbs overhead. Behold--these blues,
these men, this discipline in quiet of daybreak,
while cats prowl the countertops. He shrugs
to adjust the sleeves halfway down his palms.
He'll grow into it, I think, watching
as he disappears into the morning fog.
The following poems are by 2013 Daily Press Poet Laureate and poetry contest winner Allen M. Weber.
"Encore (For Tracy)"
I know it seems a life away:
Romantic poets bled their pens.
One painter's desperate canvas
never dried. All for that dark-haired girl
with a cello between her knees.
But curtains glided to a close.
The cheap-seat-fickle shuffled out;
Leave them to their post-show lattes.
Front-row-faithful, our sons might guess
why the eclectic men of Ghent
(sitar strummers, piano pounders
and occasionally-mad sculptors)
mourned the closing of your act,
and painted those roses black.
To see a video of Allen Weber and hear another of his poems, "Folk Remedy," visit www.dailypress.com.
"One should sympathise with the colour, the beauty, the joy of life."
She brings no more persimmons to our door.
I hope we've not offended Mrs. Kim
with some American inattention.
Perhaps her trees have taken a disease.
In June, encroaching branches did bombard
our tender strawberries with hard green fruit.
Or maybe she divines aesthetic waste.
Despite our curiosity, not one
persimmon passed our lips; still I'll insist
they were delicious. My painterly wife
presents them in the morning light, just so
we sympathize with their deepening hues.
Then we dither--salsa, chutney, cake?--
and flesh goes soft, skin wrinkles, juices slake
the bottom of our cherished earthen bowl.
Honorable mention winner
"Why Shakespeare Was So Cruel"
By Marcie Wyatt
Have you ever
Sat in the middle of English class
Drawing hearts in a notebook
Writing his name
Over and over again
Poetry began as all of those words
A woman could never say to a man
Just the thought of it makes you sigh
Makes you swoon
Copy a few lines that you read in a book
Onto a piece of paper
Who cares if you didn't think of them first
This is love...
You will worry about plagiarism later
Fold the page
Into a square
And don't forget to smile
As you give it to him
He is the one...
As you die of embarrassment
Just think of Romeo and Juliet
The tragedy of it all
The two of them knew the moment
That they wanted to be
Put out of their misery
Now you get it
You finally understand
Was so cruel
Readers' choice winner
"April 15, 2013"
By Clay Harrison
The Ides of March are over,
Easter has come and gone
And on this lovely April Day
We entered the unknown.
Thousands lined the streets of Boston
To watch the marathon,
An American tradition
That continues on and on.
They came from many nations
With dreams all their own
For in the midst of huddled masses,
Each runner runs alone.
A sudden blast, a cloud of smoke,
A shriek, a cry, a moan
Followed by a second blast
And precious dreams were gone!
Newlyweds each lost a leg,
The winds of war had blown.
An eight year old had lost his life,
His sister's leg was gone!
The unimaginable had happened;
We entered the unknown.
Evil never takes a holiday
But hope lives on and on!