Don't hesitate to show it, now's the time to be a poet


Just when you thought it was safe to read the newspaper, the World's Most Dangerous Poetry Contest returns!

That is correct! The 11th Annual Roger Simon Greater Eastern Seaboard Poetry Contest is now under way!

As we all know, without rules life would be chaos (or at least a lot like high school), so here are the rules:

RULE ONE: All poems must be on the official theme. The theme is always that subject which is dominating public life at the moment.

In 1985, the theme was squeegee kids, and this nifty haiku by Allison Doherty won:

Squeegees remove grime

Allowing us to see life

More than we wished to.

After she won, Allison appeared on the "Tonight" show where she was discovered by a top literary agent. She now writes under the name Newt Gingrich.

In 1988, the theme was the Orioles' awful season and the winner was Marc Barron with this limerick:

It's silly for me to compose

This verse on the Baltimore O's

Why should I show 'em

This insipid poem

When they really need hard-hitting pros?

Marc abandoned his career as a professional ticket scalper and now owns a successful vacation time-share business.

In 1992, the theme was the presidential race and Arlene Ehrlich won:

Bill Clinton's excuses ring hollow.

With logic that's quite hard to follow.

When asked about beer,

He said with a leer,

"I tasted, but I didn't swallow."

Today, Arlene runs a chain of all-talk radio stations in the Canadian Rockies.

Last year, the subject that dominated our lives was the O. J. Simpson trial (Whatever happened in that case, by the way? Did he get off or what?) and the contest was won by Stanley L. Rodbell with this haiku:

Is O.J. guilty?

Who cares? Justice is dying

to entertain us.

Rodbell is currently vice president of the United States.

So this year's theme is: How sick are you of Hugh Grant's phony apologies?

No, just kidding. This year's theme is: the Baltimore mayor's race! (Kinda makes you wish I had stuck with the Hugh Grant theme, right?)

OK, so all entries must be on the race between Kurt Schmoke and Mary Pat Clarke for mayor. Or on William Donald Schaefer's possible entry into the race. Or the chance that a giant meteorite might hit the city before Election Day, saving us all a lot of grief.

RULE TWO: All entries must be limericks or haikus.

A limerick is an epigrammatic piece of verse in five lines of mixed iambic and anapestic meter. Lines 1, 2 and 5 are in trimeter and lines 3 and 4 are in dimeter, with a rhyme scheme of a-a-b-b-a.

Some of you think anything is a limerick as long as it begins: "There once was a man from Nantucket..."

Wrong. Here is an example of a limerick:

The face-off between Schmoke and Clarke!

Two giants stumble in dark!

He hasn't a clue;

She's just as bad, too

I'm voting for McKeldin as a lark.

A haiku has three lines. The first line has five syllables, the second has seven and the third has five. The lines do not rhyme and must express a single, penetrating idea.

Here is an example of a haiku:

Baltimore Mayor.

If you really want the job,

You don't deserve it.

These are just examples. You probably can do much, much better. (Yeah, right, sure.)

RULE THREE: You may enter as many times as you wish as long as each poem is a haiku or a limerick.

RULE FOUR: Each entry must be on a postcard. Postcards only! Picture postcards are encouraged as they brighten my day.

RULE FIVE: Send your pathetic entries to:

Roger Simon's Poetry Contest

The Baltimore Sun

Suite 1100

1627 K St., N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20006

RULE SIX: The winners, runners-up and anyone else who kisses up to me will get their names printed in the column.

RULE SEVEN: Hurry! This is the first day of the contest and I'm already bored.

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