IMAGE:  April 2003  GRAPHIC:  University of Chicago Magazine
APRIL 2003
Volume 95, Issue 4
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Unexpected Expertise  
Poetic Justice  
Survival of the Richest
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Clouding the Issues

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Poetic Justice

In celebration of National Poetry Month the Magazine presents the winners of its Alumni Poetry Contest.

Mark Strand, the Andrew MacLeish distinguished service professor in the Committee on Social Thought, spent much of January eating poetry. As judge of the Alumni Poetry Contest he read 400-plus poems written by 246 Chicago alumni. The poets spanned nine decades of degree years, from a Ph.B. earned in 1928 to a phalanx of 2002 grads. They wrote free verse, haiku, sonnets, even limericks (“Professor Mark Strand/Placed his head in his hand…”). They wrote of love, loss, libraries, and bookshops.

Four hundred poems, as Strand laconically puts it, “is a lot of poems,” and so, in addition to the three prizes—first place, $600; second, $300; third, $100—outlined in the contest guidelines, he chose two more entries for honorable mention.

What made these poems stand out? The first-place “Potter’s Song,” Strand says, “is a successful solution to the formal problem the villanelle sets; the repetitions and circularity of the villanelle very suitably reflect the poem’s content.” He admires the second-place “Pockets” because “it combines fastidiousness and wildness in an obsessive attempt to locate oneself—with the unsought-for result that one is nevertheless lost.” Of the third-place “Little Red Schoolhouse,” Strand says, “I like the simplicity, the rhythmical rightness.” And of the honorable mentions—“Unavoidably Detained” and “Lowdown Lovesick Blues”—the judge notes, “They came close.”


Select a poem:

First Prize - Potter's Song

Second Prize - Pockets

Third Prize - Little Red Schoolhouse

Honorable Mention - Lowdown Lovesick Blues

Honorable Mention - Unavoidably Detained



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