Mayoralty poetry contest means watch the syllables


Thor sat cross-legged on the floor. He was wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt and cut-off blue jeans. He had flowers in his hair.

Moe sat across from him, putting love beads on a string.

"All we are saying," said Thor.

"Is give peace a chance," said Moe.

I've told you a thousand times, I roared at them, no drugs!

"We're not on drugs," Thor said. "We've put a v-chip in our TV set. Now we don't see any sex or violence. And we've become completely mellow."

"Like totally," Moe said.

Thor and Moe are the two broken-nosed enforcers who live in a meat locker on the second floor of The Sun building.

They are the two who come to your house and pound on the door real early in the morning and say: "Somebody here call and complain about not getting their favorite crossword puzzle?"

Then they grab you and throw you in a van and take you up to our Reader Re-Education Boot Camp in Frostburg, where, after a few weeks carrying a log around on your shoulders, you discover you never really liked crosswords that much anyway.

Thor and Moe also serve each year as my Poetry Police, enforcing the rules of my poetry contest.

This year's contest on the Baltimore mayor's race was announced on Monday, and already a record number of entries have been received.

But that also has meant a record number of rule-breakers.

"May I interrupt?" Thor asked politely. "People have to work hard to enter your contest, right?"

Right, I said.

"And even though you announced the contest on Monday, you got scores of entries by Tuesday, right?" Thor said.

Yeah, I said. So what's the point?

"Do you realize how hard that was for people to accomplish?" Thor said. "They had to read your column, -- off a poem, run down to the post office and beg the smiling and helpful people there to stop oiling their semi-automatic weapons long enough to put their entries into a mail sack."


"So these are your most loyal readers and now you are going to make fun of them!" Thor said. "It just doesn't seem right."

Let me see if I can change your mind about that, I told him. Take this entry from Dorothy Baumgarten. It is supposed to be a haiku. A haiku has three lines. The first line has five syllables, the second has seven and the third has five. They do not rhyme. They express a single, penetrating thought.

And Dorothy, a runner-up last year, tried to slip this past me this year:

Kurt or Mary Pat?

Decisions and decisions.

Forrest Gump politics.

"What's wrong with that?" Thor said.

"I think it's cool," Moe said.

Are you kidding me? I yelled. Count the number of syllables in the last line. There are six! There are supposed to be only five!

"So?" Moe said.

So I want you to go out to her house and grab her and take her up to Frostburg, pronto. Let's see how well she can count syllables after a few thousand push-ups.

"You are very cruel," Thor said.

"Very," said Moe. "You should put a v-chip in your TV set and change your life."

I have to be cruel, I said. I'm a newspaperman.

So let's review the rules:

RULE ONE: All poems have to be on the mayor's race between Kurt Schmoke and Mary Pat Clarke. You can throw William Donald Schaefer in there, too, for a giggle.

RULE TWO: All entries must be haiku or limericks. Here is a nifty limerick submitted by Dr. Jacquelyn A. Jupiter, just to give you an idea of what you are up against:

The election creeps near like the dawn!

But the voter is no less a pawn!

As Kurt has no recipe,

And Mary Pat's all hyperbole,

We're approaching the vote with a yawn!

RULE THREE: Each entry must be on a postcard. Postcards only!

RULE FOUR: Send entries to:

Roger Simon's Poetry Contest

The Baltimore Sun

Suite 1100

1627 K St., N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20006

And follow all the rules!

"And peace," said Thor.

"And love," said Moe.

I swear I'm getting rid of their TV set.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad