Thursday, April 24, 2014

April 2014 Winners - Crime Poems

Crime is a popular topic for television and movies – and, it seems, for poetry. Mike Bayles, an Iowa poet, agreed to make the final decision on the crime challenge poems. Here are the winners, two poems tied for first:

The Lawyers Write

Why do lawyers write nature poetry
when their lives proceed in grey block buildings
or damask-papered rooms full of matching volumes?

Their clients are imprisoned behind desks
overflowing with paper or in cold cells
or in homes where they hide from police
and immigration officers and their own families.

The faces across their desks frown and pout,
lined with distress, demanding impossible good.
Their work means grappling with obstacles
so tough they have no energy to see the stars.

They find variety in solutions and forms,
problems demanding research and litigation,
draining settlements and plea bargains.

That’s why they bargain with beauty
and settle for lakes and elms, sanctioning      
the blooming of lilacs, charging the cardinals
with profligate songs, seeking protection
as witness to all this evidence.

~ Julia Rice

Mr. Bayles commented, “I like the contrasts and connections between legal matters and nature. The poem implies that the lawyer might turn to nature for relief, but even in nature there is no true escape. I like the lines, ‘bargain with beauty,’ and ‘Their clients are imprisoned behind desks.’ There is great irony to this poem.”

The Winner

A gaudy diagonal of yellow
tape bisects the door across
the hall.  Shiny black letters

leave no doubt to its purpose,
flimsy plastic sash worn by
the unfortunate contestant

in this sad urban pageant.
There will be the usual
flowers and headlines for

"Miss Police Line—Do Not Cross,"
pictures and interviews and
fifteen brief minutes of fame

for last night's unlucky winner.
There will be no diamond tiara—
only questions, too many questions.

~ DB Appleton

About this poem the judge wrote, “This poem also has great irony. I like the use as the police crime scene tape being used as a sash. This is a poem where the winner is truly the loser. Maybe there is beauty in sorrow.”

Note that these poets retain rights to their poems.


Having retired from the practice of law, Julia Rice called on many memories to write this poem. She says, “I know more about law than nature, but see! I can write a nature poem about crime.”

DB Appleton is edging toward retirement, when---for better or for worse---he'll have more time to write.  Forty years in New York undoubtedly color his compositions.  He now splits his time between Madison and Sister Bay, Wisconsin, a ratio that will hopefully shift from the former to the latter as time goes on.

Mike Bayles, the author of Threshold, a book of poetry, is a widely-published poet and fiction writer. Poetry publishing credits include The Rockford Review, Lyrical Iowa, Out Loud Anthology and Coffee-Ground Breakfast. Bayles was the 2013 winner of the Iron Pen Poetry Writing Contest of The Midwest Writing Center. He is a lifelong Midwest resident, and his writing is influenced by city, small town and rural life.

What’s Next?

The May Poetry Challenge will be posted before midnight on May 1 if there is no crime scene tape blocking me from my home, no burglars running off with my computer, and I am not taken to the emergency room with broken arms (victim of an assault).