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Judged by Cynthia Erlandson

See all entrants here.

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FIRST PLACE WINNER ($100)

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A Slight Deviation from the Canterbury Tales

after Chaucer’s Prologue and other poems

by Brian Yapko, Sante Fe, New Mexico

When that April with his showers sweet
Made mud fields out of every field and street
And caked with blackest moss each flower pot
As made our hero grumble “Out, damn spot!”
So did the West Wind make our hero leery
That date night might become a midnight dreary.
Wont to argue, would his date dispute
Of man’s first disobedience?—And the fruit
He bought to woo and win her went to rot
(Cheap-purchased off some lady from Shalott.)
Our hero met his date. Alas! Dismay!
For she was more rough wind than buds of May!
Although she walked in beauty like the night
She had a scolding tongue—a waspish fright!
Lilacs in the yard withheld their bloom
When she complained—the very voice of doom!
They walked till evening spread against the sky
But strayed. She mocked him with a glittering eye.
Foul-mouthed in the frith, her anger grew.
Whose woods these were he truly thought he knew
But he was wrong. Well, better to be lost
Than loved, he thought. This date packed too much cost!
They argued underneath a poison tree.
Two roads diverged. The best was not to be.
There was no help and so they kissed and parted.
Free! Our hero was not broken-hearted.
The vales rejoiced! No albatross in sight,
He ambled gentle into that good night.

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SECOND PLACE WINNERS

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COVID and Travel

from Shakespeare’s play Richard III, Act I, Scene I

by Julian D. Woodruff, New York

Now is the winter of our discontent
Stretched out through spring, to summer, likely fall.
In masks and social distancing we’ve spent
Over a year, and now we’re facing, all,
Arm twisting at its finest to get tested
And vaccinated not just once, or twice,
But more. Refuse, and we may be arrested,
Or fined, or both; all that may not suffice.
For instance, travel has for months been hard.
You want to board a plane or cross a border,
It’s “Oh, but you don’t have a vaccine card.”
Patience and options, too, are growing shorter.
The train?—nix! Next, they’ll take your car by force.
Then might you beg, “My freedom for a horse!”

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“If I should die, think only this of me”

from Rupert Brooke’s poem, “The Soldier”

by Susan Jarvis Bryant, Texas

If I should die, think only this of me:
Her words ignited skies that cradled stars
In ebon swathes of midnight’s symphony.
They melted opal moons and marched with Mars
Through thunderclouds, then bid the dark adieu.
They trilled their treetop buzz in daybreak’s flares.
They praised then bruised in brazen shades of blue.
They blazed with tangerine and lemon airs
The zest that caught the senses unawares.
She gazed in glee and gasped in giddy awe
At odes of bards of old casting their spell.
A burning tyger and a raven’s caw
Illumed the DNA of every cell.
She had a yen no clock could ever quell.
She craved to conjure mariners at sea,
Those lesser travelled roads and trips through hell;
And now Death’s stopped to keep her company,
Her words are flirting with eternity.

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THIRD PLACE WINNERS

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Second Comings

from W.B. Yeats’ “The Second Coming”

by Conor Kelly, West Clare, Ireland

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The roller-coaster goes higher and higher.
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold,
Since Playboy ditched its naked centrefold.
The ceremony of innocence is drowned,
Yeats has taken lessons from Ezra Pound.
The darkness drops again but now I know
The electricity was bound to go.
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Is now the media’s iconoclast.

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After Wordsworth’s “Daffodils”

by Peter Hartley, Manchester UK

I wandered lonely as a cloud,
A mushroom cloud of toxic gas.
I wish I’d died with all that crowd.
Equating energy to mass
I multiplied it by the square
Of the velocity of light.
If you had warned me: please beware!
I might have saved us from our plight.
If I’d not set the world alight,
If only I might have foreseen
What I had done and put it right.
A plumber I wish I had been
That summer’s end, 1905,
I wish I’d never been alive.

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“The wheel of the roaring stillness”

from G.K. Chesterton’s “The Ballad of the White Horse”

by Benjamin Thomas Cepican, Indiana

The wheel of the roaring stillness
Rolls ever on in flame.
Behold! All properties in One,
A glory greater than the sun,
And yet always the same.

The wheel of the roaring stillness
Rolls ever on in fire.
The fount of goodness here is found
To which all goodness does redound
And satisfies desire.
Oh Trinity, the Three in One,
“Three orbs of triple hue,”
A doubled rainbow here is shown
(With colors yet to man unknown)
Ablaze with Something of Their Own–
An ancient, secret Living Throne
Remaining ever new.

The wheel of the roaring stillness
Does not begin or end.
By love constrained He keeps His art,
In everything He plays His part,
Suggesting to the human heart:
The Godhead condescends.

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After “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer

by Joseph Mason, Southern Oregon

I think that I shall never see
Along this road I roam
A barren Wasteland tragedy
That masquerades as poem
Nor Cancel Culture comedies
Where Sheeple Howl with glee
And graze in wanton gluttony
On Grass—or faux pourri
No Wayfarer shall tread upon
The road from tyranny
This mystic mix of dusk and dawn
In the land of poetrees
Winds past a lake where daffodils
Sway gently—whilst the breeze
Nudge lonely clouds that wander still
O’er a kingdom by the sea
‘Twas many and many a year ago
Hearts ached for Annabel Lee
And miles to go—and miles to go
To meet serendipity
Through snowy woods on a winter’s eve
Looms a furrowed path forsaken
Do follow it—should you believe
In the hallowed road not taken
Around the bend a carriage rests
Abandoned in the night
As death seeks out another guest
For hope has taken flight
Cry not—her fruitless search for love
And immortality
A lofty perch awaits above
In perpetuity
The pantheon of bards hoards dreams
Envisioned by one’s muse
The Belle of Amherst reigns supreme
Ensconced in somber hues.

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FOURTH PLACE WINNERS

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“To be, or not to be, that is the question,” from Hamlet

by Bethany Mootsey, Clearwater, Florida

To be, or not to be, that is
The question lined with luxury
That padded princes sit and spout
From flasks that flow with empty fizz:
A foaming of frivolity
That obfuscates their kingdom’s drought.
“To be” may fill a logic quiz,
But for the man in poverty,
His straining, starving limbs cry out
For fate to stretch this toil of his
To long, lean years of c’est la vie.
He has no time to toy with doubt.
The brokers of the brainy biz
May deal in vague philosophy
And wonder “why” and “what about,”
While warriors wince as bullets whiz
And fight the urge to flee, “to be.”
The question, they can live without.

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My iPad

from “I Have A Little Shadow” by Robert Louis Stevenson

by Sally Cook, New York

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me.
It’s very like my laptop, and as far as I can see
I didn’t need another, but the salesman said you might
Keep one within your car, the other tucked in bed at night.

Suppose your neighbor’s pipes break one sub-zero night, he can
Awaken you at three AM to borrow a big pan
To catch the burst. And if a plane has just gone down in Spain
You’ll want to be the first to know; not be left out again.

He made sense. Driving, I amuse myself with little games.
When on a date, it’s easy to be tweeting other dames.
What fun to multi-task, send smutty pictures, anything!
If I don’t like what someone says, I speed dial, let it ring,

Then leave a call back message, tell the first I have to go
Accept an urgent message, and nobody has to know
I set it up, How smart I am! I never am alone
When on my bed or in my car, I have my little phone.

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From “If” by Rudyard Kipling

by David Whippman, United Kingdom

If you can keep your head when all about you
are taken with some passing PC cause;
if you can let bandwagons leave without you,
and stay quite still, and speak the truth that’s yours…
and won’t keep silent when the mob’s demanding
that you don’t talk about the wrongs you see;
if you can be concerned and understanding
yet never grovel on your bended knee…
if you oppose some trendy leftist fashion,
and yearn for peace, yet are prepared to fight;
if you believe with logic, yet with passion,
then stand your ground, for you are in the right.

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Spent Shells

Opening line from the immortal classic ‘Humpy Dumpty’ (traditional)

by S.A.Todd, UK

Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall
Humpty Dumpty, sick of it all.
His death-leap was marvellous
all the King’s men
(despite the poor landing)
still scored him a ’10’.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

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Coleridge—Well(s) Met

by Raymond Gallucci, Frederick, MD

“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.”

And in this Subterrania
Lived Morlocks with a mania
For breeding Eloi innocent
As source of Morlock nourishment.

But then The Traveler through Time
Arrived and made that downward climb
To show the Eloi they need not
End up in Morlocks’ stewing pot.

And in this future chose to dwell,
Believing here he might excel
By teaching Eloi of the past,
Forgotten since the global blast.

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The Last Walk

“As I Walked Out One Evening“ by WH Auden

by Xavier Pimentel, Texas

As I walked out one evening,
On my two tired feet,
I couldn’t help but notice,
The people in the street.
I know that I was crying,
In the dark evening red.
All the Earth was dying,
Inside my weary head.

Strangers who did not wonder,
At this obvious sign,
Walked on like they were blinded;
Walked on like I was fine.
I know that I was dying,
In the dark evening sun.
All the Earth was crying,
And my time sadly done.

Strangers who did not wonder,
At my tear-stained face,
Walked on like I was nothing;
Like I was a disgrace.
As I walked out one evening,
To see the end of light,
I couldn’t help but notice,
The people in the night.

The dark was now upon me.
The sun was now asleep.
I found myself in my home,
Where I could hide and weep.
I know that I had been crying,
On that fateful day.
All the world was dying,
As I had flown away.

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30 Responses

  1. Julian D. Woodruff

    Brian,
    Yours is surely the wittiest among some quick wits. Congratulations!
    Cynthia,
    fun contest and good winning pick.
    Contestants,
    Some great reads. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Brian Yapko

      Thank you, Julian! Your own poem is wickedly clever and decidedly timely!

      Reply
    • Cynthia Erlandson

      Thank you, Julian! I had such a good time reading these poems! I love the way yours is both serious and fun at the same time!

      Reply
    • Brian Yapko

      Thank you, James! And congratulations indeed to all of the other placers. All of these poems are special and delightful.

      Reply
  2. Brian Yapko

    This is an incredible honor for something that I had so much fun writing. Thank you so much! Congratulations to all of the other winners — your poems are amazing! By the way, there are 24 literary allusions in this poem. Has anyone found them all?

    Reply
    • Cynthia Erlandson

      That’s amazing, Brian! I caught quite a few of the allusions, and knew that you’d gone above and beyond…. but I’m sure I didn’t get to 24, so I will have to read it again (which will be a pleasure!) But I won’t mind if someone else lists them before I do!

      Reply
      • Brian Yapko

        Thank you, Cynthia! Thank you for everything. I’m over-the-moon about this win. Let me know if you would like me to provide you with a list of poets and poems I referenced. I actually compiled one when I completed the poem.

  3. jd

    Thank you to all winners. I enjoyed each poem and
    marveled at the cleverness of all.

    Reply
  4. Sally Cook

    What a gorgeous gaggle; a great and
    genius group for sure! Many thanks for including me
    among third placers.

    Reply
  5. Sandi Christie

    Peter Hartley opened this contest with an amazing poem I thought was hard to beat. Then Brian and Susan posted their poems, and I was blown away and promptly deleted the two poems I had started and sat back in my kindergarten preschool chair to watch all the clever artistic masterpieces of the many great poets on this site. Wow. So enjoyable to re-read them today, thank you.

    Reply
  6. Jeff Eardley

    Brian, congratulations and thank you for a great poetic romp. “Better to be lost than loved” is genius.

    Reply
  7. Paul Freeman

    Well done winners and honourable mentions!

    I have a soft spot for Chaucer, Brian. I’m sure ‘The Father of English Literature’ would be proud of your effort.

    My fave line: ‘…she was more rough wind than buds of May!’

    Reply
    • Brian Yapko

      Thank you, Paul! I’ve loved the Canterbury Tales ever since my university days and remain astonished at how much earthy fun Chaucer actually is!

      Reply
  8. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    A big THANK YOU! to Cynthia for the superb challenge and for all the efforts of judging this popular and fun competition. Congratulations to all and an extra special congratulations to Brian for his great winning poem. I love the Lady Macbeth line! I am honored to share second place with Julian. “Covid and Travel” was one of my favorites. What a fun site this is!

    Reply
    • Brian Yapko

      Susan, thank you and congratulations to you as well. I did want to especially express how much I love “If I should die…” which was a beautiful tribute to your art. Many decades from now when you are gone, you will indeed be remembered for the dazzling imagery and musical language you used to brighten an often bleak world. And, by the way, I owe you a debt for inspiration because I don’t think I would have been brave enough to come up with a poem with so many references if I hadn’t been emboldened by your brilliant Can of Worms poem. So thank you!

      Reply
      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Brian, I’m thrilled my Can of Worms inspired you. That’s the beauty of being on this site. I believe the joy of creating poetry is contagious and to have a pandemic of prize poems break out on this SCP page is pure joy during times plagued with misery. Also, thank you for your appreciation of my poem. But, better still – the mention of my many more decades on God’s green earth has made my Sunday afternoon!

    • Brian Yapko

      And let me second your THANK YOU to Cynthia who had such a daunting task of reading and judging so many wonderful poems! This was indeed great fun!

      Reply
      • Cynthia Erlandson

        It was my pleasure, Brian! It was fun for me, too!

    • Cynthia Erlandson

      Thank you, Susan, for your comment, and your poem! It was a great pleasure and honor to read all of the poems, and I’m gratified that so many poets entered. I totally agree with you that this is a very fun site, and I’m happy to be a part of it!

      Reply
  9. Brian Yapko

    Cynthia, I’m going to go ahead and post my list of literary references. That way if you or anyone else is wondering if you got them all, they are here (in order):

    Canterbury Tales (Prologue) – Geoffrey Chaucer
    Mariana – Alfred, Lord Tennyson
    Macbeth – William Shakespeare
    Ode to the West Wind – Percy Shelley
    The Raven – Edgar Allen Poe
    Paradise Lost – John Milton
    Taming of the Shrew – William Shakespeare
    Lady of Shallot – Alfred, Lord Tennyson
    Sonnet 18 – William Shakespeare
    She Walks in Beauty – Lord Byron
    Taming of the Shrew – William Shakespeare
    When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed – Walt Whitman
    Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock – T.S. Eliot
    Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
    Foweles in the Frith – Medieval Anonymous
    Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening – Robert Frost
    In Memoriam A.H.H. – Alfred, Lord Tennyson
    The Poison Tree – William Blake
    The Road Not Taken – Robert Frost
    Rabbi Ben Ezra – Robert Browning
    Idea 61 – Michael Drayton
    The Lamb – William Blake
    Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
    Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night – Dylan Thomas

    Reply
    • Cynthia Erlandson

      Thank you, Brian — I was hoping you would (though actually we could have had a contest to see who could find the most. — ) I recognized about half of them, but had to look up even some of those to remember who the author was. You are a veritable library of literary references. Congratulations on a brilliant poem!

      Reply
  10. David Whippman

    Thanks Cynthia; I’m delighted that my poem got placed among such formidable competition!

    Reply
  11. Mia

    Congratulations to all the winners, the contestants and last but not least the organisers. This has been such an enjoyable and extremely productive challenge. I enjoyed reading all the wonderful poems and in fact wish we could post some more just for fun. Still there must be limits to all good things!

    Congratulations and best wishes to all,
    Mia

    Reply
  12. Bethany Mootsey

    I returned from vacation last night and am just now seeing the results. Thank you, Cynthia, for this excellent contest, which stretched us creatively. Congratulations to Brian, Julian, Susan, and all the other winners!

    Reply

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