Going from bad to verse with the Simpson case

September 23, 1994|By ROGER SIMON

Bitter about headlines that say Americans are getting more bitter?

Cynical about stories that say we have become too cynical?

Then this column's for you!

Because the 10th Annual Roger Simon Greater Eastern Seaboard Poetry Contest is back!

And even though life in these United States has descended into anarchy and chaos (you can ask William Bennett if you don't believe me), my contest has rules:

RULE ONE: All poems must be on the official theme.

In 1985, the official theme was squeegee kids (remember them?) and the winner was this haiku by Allison Doherty:

Squeegees remove grime

Allowing us to see life

More than we wished to.

Allison won an all-expenses paid vacation to Port Deposit where she was named Queen of the Spring Festival.

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

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."

Arlene is now ambassador to Iceland.

Last year, the theme was a new name for Baltimore's possible/mythical football team, and it was won with this nifty haiku by Christopher J. Ellis:

"Rhin-OH! say does that

Star-Spangled Banner yet wave..."

You know, it might work.

Chris now anchors the "CBS Nightly News" with Connie Chung.

As the brighter among you have discerned by now, each year's theme is that issue which dominates our daily lives.

And what had dominated our lives this year? That's right:

Did Frank Sinatra really sing that American Joe Miedusiewski commercial?

No. That's not right.

The real issue that has dominated our lives almost to the point of obsession is: the O. J. Simpson case.

Which I first rejected as a theme for a poetry contest because, after all, it deals with the gruesome murder of two human beings and the trial of a third. And there was a good chance I would get really lurid, utterly tasteless entries.

Which is why I have decided to go for it.

So the theme is O. J. Simpson.

RULE TWO: All entries must be limericks or haiku. A limerick, as any school child knows, 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.

Here is an example:

A fair trial for O. J. can't be

Not with all the publicity

So let's let him go,

Give him his own talk show,

With Kato to serve as MC.

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 they must express a single, penetrating idea.

Here is an example:

I buy the theory

Of a second assailant.

It's we, the people.

Penetrating as all get out, right?

OK, here's another haiku:

Barbara Walters

Using a lead pipe in the

Conservatory.

I promise not to show any of the entries to the Simpson jury before it is sequestered.

RULE THREE: You may enter as many times as you wish, but each entry must be on a separate postcard.

RULE FOUR: Postcards only! Picture postcards brighten my otherwise shabby existence, but any postcard will do.

RULE FIVE: Send your pathetic attempts at immortality to:

Roger Simon's Poetry Contest

The Baltimore Sun

Suite 1100

1627 K St, N.W.

Washington, DC 20006

RULE SIX: The Grand Prize winner will get his or her name printed in the paper, my best wishes and damn little else.

RULE SEVEN: Enter immediately. Experience has taught me that early entries usually win. That's probably because I get bored quickly and start throwing away the later entries.

So hurry.

Justice may be slow, but poetry waits for no one.

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