A "spirited" spoof of win-big-cash vanity poetry contests
The Bards Convention
A poetry prom held once a year
beckons to bards from far and near.
The carrot is cash put up for contention;
same tempting old tease, each Bards Convention.
“Plus trophies and plaques,” to quote The Quill.
Just pay for your prize, enjoy the thrill.
I'm a contest rube who'd answered the call
midst wide-eyed wanna-be’s filling the hall.
Do join me, friend; come watch the show.
I'm bound to win, I've paid them dough.
*** "hush, hush, be quiet, sh-shush" ***
Emcees for The Quill bode all to be still
as poets prepared to engage.
It is a condition each give a rendition
of verse for rehearsing on stage.
But as lights dimmed low an afterglow
went floating across the room.
Not a mystical mist, but a whimsical wisp
I tailed to a catacomb tomb.
To sneak a peek I dared not speak,
but stealth'ly nudged the door.
I dropped my jaw with what I saw—
a poetry party with ghosts of yore.
The spirits were restive, the gaiety festive;
a passel of specters all having a ball.
I copied Jack Horner, crept into a corner
to spy like a fly on the wall.
Twixt Aiken and Bacon stood four-footer Pope,
'side Binyon and Bunyon, Lord Byron, and Hope.
There's Wentworth and Woodworth and Francis Scott Key.
Two Taylors, three Brontes— all sisters, you see;
relating, debating while sipping their tea.
Sir Ferguson, Tennyson, Dickenson, Rowe
with Munday ‘tween Sunday and Friday’s Defoe.
Mackay, Magee, McKee, McCrae—
Hilton and Milton, and China’s Wang Wei.
Off to the left of 'nonsensical' Lear,
Longfellow's in stride retelling Revere.
"One if by land, and two if by sea!"
squeal a bevy of bards; like children they be.
O'er 'cross the crypt seen munching on cake,
though anon in his prime, the Englishman Blake;
a dissident mystic and foe of the State
whose 'burning-bright Tyger's' still famous to date.
And last but not least, a group in the rear,
topping their tankards of shandies and beer,
Greek ancients and Limeys, old Romans and Heinies;
too many to name— My god, they’re all here!
They're citing, reciting, in candle-lit lighting
while drinking and feasting their fill at this bash.
They have dumplings with ducklings and roasted pig sucklings,
two tubs full of taters in sour cream mash.
Spring leeks and green scallions, brown gravy, sweet onions
for garnishing ribs of roast beef.
And stewing in crocks, split peas and ham hocks
and a ghoulish goulash beyond belief.
Cauldrons of crawfish, fried rice, and red beans.
Tomatoes, potatoes and tossed salad greens.
Kegs flowing with brews, red wine, and hard booze;
delicious desserts of pies and pralines.
As ghosts gathered round, grew quiet the tomb.
A meeting of sorts seemed likely and soon.
Walt Whitman gave word, "let's have your attention!
It's time to be heard at this yearly convention."
In front of the forum in charge of a quorum,
the maven from Avon arose.
“All here?” asked ‘Speare, “let’s stifle the cheer,”
said the master of sonnets and prose.
“I've heard there is mention of rising dissension
with grading our students upstairs.
Now, free of constraints, let’s hear your complaints
pervading these Odist affairs.”
“Who’s first to speak and proffer critique?”
inquired of Will while panning the room.
“I’ll give it a go,” said the raven-haired Poe,
the cynical savant of gloom.
In a studious stance, he cleared his throat
with theatrical flair before he spoke.
“Once upon a midnight session, while I squandered my profession
marking many a quaint, but spurious ode of ludicrous lore.
When perusing, nearly snoozing, suddenly I heard rehearsing,
an obscenely shameless cursing, cursing 'yond my classroom door.
‘What vulgarity!’ I shuddered.
Cursing, by some smutty Moor,
mocking me, but nevermore!”
“Oh, thass absurd,” ol’ Coleridge slurred.
“Moors don’t buy your brand of rapping—
as if some brazen bird came tapping, gently tapping
on your chamber door.
T’was merely a mouthy crow and nothing more.”
“How darest thou, Sam, imply thee a sham!
you heinous hound from Hades below.
Now take it back or risk a whack,”
bristled the rather pugnacious, persnickety Poe.
“Beg pardon, kind sir, I’m truly a cur
for surely I ne’er did think.
Unlike thine Ancient Mariner,
I’ve ‘ad many a drop to drink.”
“Touché, tee-hee,” laughed Annabel Lee,
patting the back of her beau.
Van Dyke was next whose voice inflects
disdain for same, in favor of Poe.
“Poe postures a point to which I agree,
for shame to them, and shame on them;
purveyors of blasphemy.
We never do cuss, need never to cuss,
only virtuous verse for thee.”
“He’s right!” shouts Hammond.
“He’s wrong!” spouts Bacon—
the duo divided but closely related in gist.
“Aye,” says Hammond. “We've labored for ages redlining poor pages
of aspiring Quill poets in classes.”
“Nay,” says Bacon. “They pay us good wages to act as their sages
for inspiring the poetry masses.”
“Aye, I’m wrong, you’re right,” heeds Hammond.
“Nay, you’re right, I’m wrong," cedes Bacon.
Thence came a disruption with curt interruption, to wit:
“Let me be Blunt, since be it my name.
Unless there’s a poem that I shall see
as lovely and leafy as Kilmer’s old tree,
I shall wheedle and coddle their vanity game.
“I truly detest such gibberish scat,
‘tis purely a wearisome waste of my time.
Piles of piffle they toss in my lap,
yea nary a rhythm, no reason, nor rhyme.
“‘Tis not why we’re hired, don’t care if I’m fired,
I shall flatter each entrant the same.
‘Evaluations? There’s none! Salutations? You’ve won!’
and leave them all dreaming of poetry fame.”
Blunt graciously bowed to applause from the crowd
while humbly conceding the stage to ‘Speare.
But a standing ovation persisted so loud,
it forced Will's gavel to quiet things here.
“You, there Cummings, e.e. if prefer?”
hailed ‘Speare quite tediously.
“Minus commas and gaps, curly-q’s and big CAPS,
can we take thee seriously?”
“if you think me abstruse i haveno excuse
but do have apitch to propose.
Upstairs is a ruse for vanity rubes
but not up to us to expose
“and surely should mention we’re at this convention
as honorable guests of the quill.
we should treat with respect for the feasts that we get
and they dutifully pay our bill.”
“We agree! We agree! with contrary e.e.”
came a volley of hoots from a jury of spooks.
Thence Kipling opined with a logical spin,
whose squidgy-nosed idol's better known than him—
'that beaten, flayed Injian' named Gunga Din.
“They say we’re immortal as poetry goes,
we venerable bards of traditional lore.
We’ll ne’er expire! We’re classical pros
meant to infuse our muse and no more.
“Each year we’re here where poetry thrives,
with a jolly-good job we do to survive.
No haunting old digs, or Halloween gigs.
No shrieking, no freaking, or ghoulish disguise;
by gawd, we’re ‘aving the time of our lives.”
Next to speak up, the pious bard Donne
who’d none of the ale but plenty of rum.
“Since ye have a majority, on William's authority,
I pray ye panel of poets decease.”
Oh, how the ghosts booed, bellowed, and hissed
with jeers and sneers from many half-pissed,
all cringing from Donne's impaired phraseology,
who promptly untied his tongue with apology.
“So sorry, my brethren for comments unkind.
Mere rummy-numbed lips, no fault of the mind.
Dare not dismay, meant only to pray:
for this meeting to cease and de-sist.”
“I second the motion,” said minstrel bard Burns,
who’s quoted each year for Grandfather Tyme.
“Let’s pop a champagne as the jury adjourns;
I’ll lead us in song, a favorite of mine.”
“Lest our acquaintance be for naught,
no way should we e’er resign…
and ne’er f’get what thee hath taught,
ye bards of auld lang syne."
Hence the headmaster bard brought the gavel down hard
and declared, "It's a quarter-past partying time!"
In sync with their groovin’, my feet began movin’
like a whirligig dervish in trance.
The beat was contagious, I know it’s outrageous
but burst into song as I danced.
When I'd sprung from my nook, they shot me a look
but seemed to accept me as theirs.
On went the clappin’, carousing, toe-tappin’
embracing this twit from upstairs.
“Cha-ching, cha-ching, Quill registers ring.
Whether genius or rubbish we’ll always get published;
we wanna-be bards just doin’ our thing.
“Cha-ching, cha-ching, Quill teller trays ding.
Be it dollars and cents, pounds, shillings, or pence;
amazing what coin that poetry brings."
The spirits were rollicking, frolicking free.
All rompin' and prancin',
foot stompin’ and dancin’
as Sappho was jinkin’ and jivin’ with me.
The ancient one Horace proposed us a chorus
while swinging his tankard re-filled.
“Aye, everyone toast our generous host,
let’s sing to the Sign of the Quill.”
“Stroke, stroke, don’t rock the boat!
Appease the poets who came…
readily, wearily, steadily, cheerily,
we stroke them all the same.
“You've won, you've won, you son-of-a-gun;
the basis of the game…
Loyally, happily, hopefully, merrily,
they’ll all be back again.”
The revelry paled when Whitman hailed above the rousing fun.
“O brethren! my brethren— the Quill's charade is done!
There's nothing left for bards to chase, the prize they sought is won.
It’s back to crypts perusing scripts, our pumpkin hour has come."
Mild cursing was heard, but all had concurred
that in view of Walt's mention, t'was time for suspension
with a closing salute from Shakespeare.
“Alas, fellow odists, thou kindred spirits
as hither yon we flitter 'fore the morrow.
Bemoan thee not this affair held dearest;
merely savor the scent of parting's sweet sorrow.
For I bid thee good cheer 'til we gather next year
at this burgeoning Bards Convention.
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