The COVID-19 Poetry Challenge

It’s March Madness for Poets!

On Memorial Day I received an interesting email from a writer/poet friend with The COVID-19 Poetry Challenge in the subject line. Naturally this intrigued me. His email began like this:

Dear Friends of Poetry, near and far,
Welcome to the COVID19 Poetry Challenge, an interactive, tournament-style elimination game in which 32 well-crafted poems (see below) about writing poetry are gradually whittled down to a Crowd Favorite, the champion, if you will. This is purely for enjoyment; no literary criticism is required or requested, implicitly or explicitly.

The tournament matches the format of the NCAA’s March Madness playoffs in that poems are paired off in brackets and each week teams (poems in this case) get eliminated.

I love creativity of all stripes, and as a method for sharing great poetry with fans of poetry, this was truly a rewarding ploy.

The first four weeks will feature the Regionals, beginning with the Lift Bridge Regional, May 25–31. Poems competing in this first round are as follows, though not in this order.

1. Alexander, Elizabeth — “Ars Poetica #100: I Believe”

2. Frank O’Hara — “Why I Am Not a Painter”

3. Berry, Wendell — “How to Be a Poet”

4. Bly, Robert — “Words Rising”

5. Bukowski, Charles — “So You Want to Be a Writer?”

6. Collins, Billy — “Workshop”

7. Collins, Billy — “The Trouble with Poetry: A Poem of Explanation”

8. Dickinson, Emily — “Tell the Truth, but Tell It Slant”

Other regionals have names like The Hawk Ridge Regional, the Hobey Baker Regional, and the Poet Laureate Regional.

As soon as I received this email I couldn’t help but start my day by reading all eight poems in the Lift Bridge Regional, and casting my votes. There were no easy decisions here, all eight poems being worthy of a recognition. Each decision came down to the wire, one game going into overtime.

Billy Collins is always a fun read, so I will end this by sharing the opening to one of Billy Collins’ poems.


I might as well begin by saying how much I like the title.
It gets me right away because I’m in a workshop now
so immediately the poem has my attention,
like the Ancient Mariner grabbing me by the sleeve.

You can find the rest of Collins’ Workshop here. And a simple Google search will deliver to you the other contenders in this opening round of the challenge.

Thanks, Phil for the thought-provoking and entertaining diversion. I can hardly wait till we get to the Final Four.

Related Links

Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins
Bill Collins, Poet Laureate
Phil Fitzpatrick Talks About His New Book of Poems, Hawks on High: Everyday Miracles in a Hawk Ridge Season
Three Feet Away by Phil Fitzpatrick

Meantime, he not busy bein’ born is busy dying.

Originally published this morning at https://pioneerproductions.blogspot.com.

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon https://tinyurl.com/y3l9sfpj

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