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The Tipsy Muse Hall of Light


Event VI Awards for
The Tipsy Muse Poetry Contest
Summer 2002

Contest Judge:
Thomas Carper


The topic
And the envelope please...
The winners' circle
The current Tipsy Muse Poetry Contest guidelines


The Topic

Topic #6: A rhymed and metered poem of fewer than twenty-five lines that uses one or more familiar sayings, or variations thereof, in a novel or humorous way.

And the envelope please...
Here' the award speech from Topic #6 Judge, Thomas Carper:

The Sixth Tipsy Muse Contest asked for a rhymed and metered poem of fewer than twenty-five lines that used one or more familiar sayings, or variations thereof, in a novel or humorous way. Fourteen poets responded to the challenge of making the commonplace striking, and there were many successes among the entries. The level of technical skill combined with wit was very high, so choosing a single “grand prize” and three honorable mentions was difficult; though for me there were several poems that particularly merited praise, many others showed notable invention and humor. All the entries deserve a reading in Eratosphere.

“I’ve met that man...” was one of the poems I liked especially. In an expertly written sonnet the poet takes Victor Hugo’s “Hunchback of Notre Dame” and gives the story of the bell-ringer a different trajectory. Here, in fourteen lines, Quasimodo uses his head for a clapper until one day he fatally misstrikes. The poem’s smaller pleasures include reference to the (pealing) bell’s “great appeal,” and the nicknaming our hero “Quas,” so that he will rhyme with “was.” Then the final line brings in the “familiar saying” in an astonishing new context. The whole short incident is told in perfectly natural-sounding pentameters.

Then, “Taking Stock,” in its sixteen lines of fine alternate-rhyming tetrameters, gives the reader all of sixteen proverbial phrases turned upside-down. It’s a pleasurable puzzle to work through the poem putting the familiar sayings back into their known forms, from “I reap what other people sow” into “You reap what you sow” and “My life is longer than my art” into “Art is long and life is short.” All together, the poem makes a humorously melancholy statement about how much of most people’s lives works out unproverbially.

“Diary of a Determined Optimist” tells an intriguing story that incorporates clever rhymes (like “Brahmin” and “in common”). In the poem, the speaker falls for a girl “beautiful, blond and stacked”; he pursues her “unblinking”; she gets a court order to stop him; he’s arrested for persisting; and since “romance is just a myth,” he’ll serve “good time” in custody loving the one (a cellmate?) he’s with. Most of the familiar sayings—“opposites attract,” “birds of a feather...,” “don’t throw good (seed) after bad”—work seamlessly into the narration and the well metered verse. The last line plays provocatively, it seems, on lines from a song popular some years back which goes, “When I’m not near the girl I love, I love the girl I’m near.”

Another poem, one which plainly refers back to a song from about that same era, is “That Spin We’re In,” and the poem struck me as not only lovely, but handled metrically in a very imaginative way. The song is “That Old Black Magic,” which concludes with the singer telling us that he’s “In a spin, loving the spin I’m in, under that old black magic called love” (a word or two here may be wrong). But one doesn’t have to recollect the song to follow the poem through its initial pair of four-beat (tetrameter) lines, each followed by a rhyming single-beat line, to a third tetrameter followed by a two-beat line (the lines getting longer, allowing the sense of nervous hesitation caused by the shortest lines to diminish). The poem then moves easily into three relaxed, all-tetrameter, smoothly enjambed lines that basically repeat the message already delivered, but with a flowing elegance that makes the final line, when it comes, surprisingly convincing—as the three earlier short lines are now assembled to give us the single, familiar saying. Love assembles all things. For me, too, the final quatrain brings pleasurably to mind images from Robert Frost’s affecting love poem “The Silken Tent.”

There were other fine poems sent to Ms. Tipsy Muse. I liked the whole of the well-crafted sonnet “Inscription From the Tomb of the Unknown Executive,” where the speaker has moved from a life where in his work he “replaced emotions with comparisons” to one where he can say, “I think, therefore, iamb!” In “Cold Dead Claws,” armed bears stock up on munitions because, in a parody of Frost’s phrase (known to many of us as the title of Timothy Steele’s book on versification), “All the fun’s in how you kill a thing.” And I liked the epigrammatic couplet (given an amusingly long title), “Each penny I’ve saved is a penny I’ve earned— / till it falls to the ground from the pocket it burned.” Two familiar sayings about coins link meaningfully together in one short poem. Still other poems, too, had their engaging stories and moments of wit and humor.

So my thanks to all who entered. And congratulations to the authors of the Grand Prize winner, “I’ve Met That Man...,” and the three honorable mentions, listed in no order of preference: “Taking Stock,” “Diary of a Determined Optimist,” and “That Spin We’re In.”

Thomas Carper

The Winners' Circle

The Grand Prize Winner ($100.00)

The Honorable Mentions ($10.00)
Roger Slater
Christopher Wagner
Ralph C. La Rosa


Grand Prize

I’ve Met That Man…
By "Jude"

The hunchback, Quasimodo had the task
of ringing bells at Notre Dame, and he’d
stand bravely on the parapet and ask
God’s blessing, then he’d estimate the speed
of breezes, and direction from the town.
When satisfied he had it right he’d spring
to head-butt that old bell then drop back down
onto the parapet. The sound would ring
with great appeal. One gusty day poor Quas
misjudged the wind and smashed the bell face-first,
then fell to earth, quite dead. They asked, “Who was
this man?” But no-one knew. Then someone burst
into the crowd. “Is this the man who fell?
Hmmm, what’s his name? His face sure rings a bell.”


Honorable Mention

Taking Stock
By Roger Slater

I reap what other people sow.
My cat's at home, my mice still play.
My little acorn would not grow.
I had the will, but not the way.

I took the credit. None was due.
I've nothing, but so much to lose!
To mine own self I've been untrue.
I had no right, but sang the blues.

My pen is duller than my sword.
I cut my nose to fix my face.
I missed the beginning. What was the Word?
Slow and steady, I lost the race.

I could not teach my young dog tricks.
My horse could never catch the cart.
So much shit, but nothing sticks.
My life is longer than my art.



Honorable Mention

Diary of a Determined Optimist
By Christopher Wagner

I’m scrawny, scarred and ugly
She’s beautiful, blond and stacked:
I think she’ll really go for me,
Since opposites attract.

She's cold, self-centered, quarrelsome,
Haughty as any Brahmin.
If birds of a feather flock together,
We’ve got a lot in common.

She’s got that damn restraining order,
But I persist unblinking.
Never underestimate
The power of positive thinking!

“If at first you don’t succeed…”
My mother always told me,
But now my love is far away,
And strange policemen hold me.

I won’t throw good time after bad—
Romance is just a myth:
If only he’ll be gentle,
I’ll love the one I’m with.



Honorable Mention

That Spin We’re In
By Ralph C. La Rosa

It’s music from the spheres above.
It’s love,
the magic cure for our mistakes
that makes—
when we’re enchanted by its sound—
the world go round.
Our songs then echo how we’re bound,
enthralled by threads that each has spun
and woven so our hearts are one.
It’s love that makes the world go round.

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