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Pick the verse that wins the purse

Pick the verse that wins the purse

Your genial host’s father once confided to him a bit of wisdom that he claimed to have learned somehow from insiders on the vaudeville circuit: The three slowest weeks of the year were Easter, Christmas and Milwaukee.

As both your genial host’s father and your genial host were from Milwaukee, it was never clear to your genial host why his father seemed to take this as a point of pride. That part of the matter aside, it remains true that holiday weeks are slow ones in many industries. The week containing the Fourth of July is one such, and even Verse or Worse is subject to its vagaries. But your genial host notes that, as Verse or Worse is quite an august institution, things should pick up next month. 

All that is by way of saying that the number of entries in the current challenge was rather small. Your genial host mentions that as partial explanation for what might seem an oddity in his selections for the top five entries.

You will perhaps recall that the contest was inspired by the punishment meted out to many of the hooligans who broke into the one-time summer house of Robert Frost for a beer party that ended up utterly trashing the place. The party-goers were sentenced to taking two classes on Frost’s poetry. The Verse or Worse challenge was to add one or three lines to a poem beginning “Whose words these are I think I know.” The addition was to be one that might have been written by one of those latter-day Frost scholars.

How many T-shirts does one poet need?

As noted, there weren’t lots of entries, but among them were two nice ones from a guy who is turning out to be a regular submitter, and who already has won twice. Your genial host’s first instinct was to pass by those entries (how many T-shirts does the guy need?), but he thought better of it, for two reasons:

—One, part of the purpose of Verse or Worse (if it is possible for something like Verse or Worse to be thought of as having a purpose) is to amuse readers by presenting the witty contributions of their fellows. How smart would it be to not include some good ones simply because they came from somebody who often turns out good ones? And if somebody who won twice wasn’t to be eligible for a third T-shirt, shouldn’t that be clear before he puts the other two in the wash?

—And two, there weren’t lots of entries.

So yes, two of today’s top five are from perennial contributor Ervin Stembol. Maybe your genial host should establish a separate honorable-mention category for multiple winners.
But he hasn’t.


After all that, your task is to vote for what you think is the best poem purportedly written by a drunken-brawl attendee who was condemned to study Robert Frost. (Cast your vote down where it says “here.”) The winner gets a MinnPost T-shirt so lovely that it would look good even after a drunken brawl.

Here are the candidates:

Whose words these are, I think I know.
His house is ours to pillage? No!

—Lee Keller

Whose words these are I think I know,
I made his toilet overflow.

—Ervin Stembol

Whose words these are I think I know
The guy whose horse stood in the snow.
He should have chilled … drunk some beer,
Smoked some dope or snorted blow.

—Bonnie West

Whose words these are, I think I know
Not Spenser, Pope, or yet Thoreau
Not Shelley, Keats, or Shakey-speare
But Robert Frost! (Let’s go drink beer!)

—Name Withheld, AKA The Bard of Desnoyer Park

Whose words these are I think I know,
It’s like — OK, just let it go,
If I’d of known he’s some big mug
I wou’n’t’a puked up on his rug.

—Ervin Stembol

Cast your vote for the winner by clicking here.

Voting ends at 5 p.m. Thursday, July 10. On Monday, July 14, we’ll announce the winner of that lyrically beautiful MinnPost T-shirt — and a new contest.

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