The bad news is that I violated your trust; I sold you out; I betrayed you.
The good news is that it doesn't matter much.
As you know, I announced the opening of my sixth annual poetry contest a few weeks ago. In the past, this contest has been limited topeople in the Baltimore area.
You wanted it that way. You didn't want outsiders spoiling the curve.
And, in the past, I listened to you. Though I always thought you were selling yourselves short. Call me a local booster, but I figured bad poetry from the Baltimore area could hold its own against bad poetry from anywhere in this nation!
Now, I have a chance to prove it. It happened by accident. I was on the Larry King radio show some months ago, and a member of the audience from Baltimore asked about the poetry contest, and this went out on the radio waves to nearly every human being in America.
So people started writing me and begging to enter. And I decided to be fair. I sent the column announcing this year's poetry contest out on my syndicate figuring very few papers would run it.
After all, it is a contest, and newspapers don't like contests that cross state lines because one night the editor finds an FBI agent at his house at 3 a.m. shining a light in his face and asking if he really distributed all the prizes.
But papers starting running the poetry column anyway. And I started getting entries from Parker, Ariz., and Fort Plain, N.Y., and Newark, Ohio and other places I never heard of.
And then the Los Angeles Times ran the column on a Sunday The Sunday circulation of the Los Angeles Times was, at last count, about 22 kazillion.
And people in Southern California seem to have this thing for poetry. They apparently like to sit around on their surfboards or look at their lava lamps and write limericks and haiku.
Because I have gotten about 11 kazillion entries from that state. That's the bad news.
The good news is that the California entries stink as bad as most 1 of the Maryland ones!
That's right. So you can still win!
The rules are simple. The subject is hard times. Your poem has to be either a limerick or a haiku. And it has to be on a postcard.
I thought only people in this area had trouble with limericks. Then I started reading limericks from around the country. Here is one from Linda Hiebert in Fort Worth, Texas:
Poor Georgie got sick from spoiled fruit
T'was a big Georgia peach called a 'Newt'
- When Johnnie Sununu asked why
! All that Newt could reply was
! "I come from a tree with bad roots."
( Can you do better than that? Of course, you can. And just to make you feel better, here is a limerick from Steve Noceti of Altadena, Calif.:
When Iraq's Saddam Hussein went to Kuwait
- He threw our economy into a terrible state
. So, in light of the deficit crisis
& Georgie Bush and our Congress
! Said, "Let's raise taxes on gas -- that's the ticket!"
: Isn't that just about the worst limerick you ever read in your life? Sure it is. You could write a better limerick than that in your sleep.
"And as a little extra help, we'd like to give some special hints to our local readers," said Thor and Moe, my two poetry thugs. (Who sometimes speak in unison.)
"A limerick," said Thor, "is usually an epigrammatic piece of verse in five lines of mixed iambic and anapestic meter."
"Lines 1, 2 and 5 are in trimeter," said Moe, "and lines 3 and 4 are in dimeter."
"And, of course," added Thor, "the rhyme scheme is a-a-b-b-a."
So what are you two trying to say? I asked.
"We're saying," they said, "this contest is still anybody's ball game."
So get those postcards in now. Don't let someone from California win just because you didn't enter.
Because, kowabunga, dudes, I'd really hate to give first prize to a foreigner.