IN THE early 1920s, there was a move afoot to raze the Shot Tower. No longer in use at the time, the structure was the only one of its kind still standing anywhere, according to one account from 70 years ago.
Baltimore newspapers decided to conduct a Shot Tower poetry contest, in order to generate interest in maintaining the tower as a historic landmark. A great many poets were inspired to use their talents for a worthy cause.
There were two 1st prizes, in cash. One of them went to my grandfather, William James Price, for his sonnet, "The Shot Tower Speaks."
Born in Oakington, Md., in 1875, he was founder of the Verse Writers' Guild of Maryland and editor of Interludes, a journal of poetry dedicated to publishing new writers.
(A few issues of the journal exist today, and one of those published writers who went on to greater things was John Dos Passos.)
So many poems were published in support of the Shot Tower, and so much interest aroused among the public, that the campaign was successful. The Shot Tower continues to occupy a place of honor, and in 1972, it was registered as a National Historic Landmark.
"The Shot Tower Speaks" was published in The Sun in 1924 and was later reprinted in a 1924 anthology of newspaper verse.
By the way, this was not the first time that poetry helped save a national treasure. In a recent article for The Sun, Albert J. Silverman related how Oliver Wendell Holmes' poem "Old Ironsides" helped to save the frigate Constitution from being demolished. Mr. Silverman then called for a contemporary poet to stir the public to the cause of Baltimore's own Constellation.
Maybe a contest sponsored by the Baltimore Sun, such as occurred in 1924, would produce what Emily Dickinson called "prancing poetry" to wake the sleeping giant.
Carol Chesney Meyers writes from Baltimore.