Tip Melby was an educated man. He was fond of opera and good literature – something I think he learned from his grandfather, Giles Campbell.
Tip was visiting with me one afternoon and asked me if I had watched the world poetry contest that was on TV the other night. Not being so tuned in to world-class literature, I told him, “No – sorry I missed it.”
“Well,” said Tip, “It was quite interesting.”
“You know,” he continued, “there were contests all over the world for people competing for the title of the World’s Greatest Poet. They had competitions in various forms of poetry – like sonnets, lyric poems, narrative poems, and the like. The competition included poetry structure as well. Things like “heroic cuplets,” “iambic pentameter,” “onomatopoeia,” and so forth.
“Really?” I said, amazed that I could even remember such terms.
“Yes,” he said. “The contests continued for about six months until, finally, there were two finalists: a woman from England and a guy from Montana.”
“I see,” I said, nodding.
“At the final competition,” he continued, “there was a distinguished panel of judges. Each had one of those signs like they have at the gymnastics competition at the Olympics – 9.5, 9.2, and even a perfect 10.”
The two contestants came onto the stage and the master of ceremonies read the rules.
“Each contestant,” he said, “will have 30 seconds to compose a four line poem about a person, place or thing.”
“A noun,” I thought to myself.
The two contestants drew straws and the English woman drew the short straw – meaning that she would have to go first. They put the man from Montana into an isolation booth so he would not be able to hear anything.
Then the woman stepped up to the podium.
The master of ceremonies said, “The word is ‘Timbuktu.’ (Timbuktu, if you don’t recognize the name, is the name of a legendary town somewhere in the central part of the Sahara Desert in Africa.)
Thirty seconds ticked by as they played the same theme from “Jeopardy.” When time was up, a bell rang and the woman stood uip to the podium and said:
“I traveled far to a distant land.
And through the rocks o’er burning sand,
As in a dream a spell-like view,
There shown the towers – of TIMBUKTU!”
The audience gasped with astonishment. The judges huddled for a few moments and then each raised the signs. ALL were 9.95! Nearly perfect!
The English woman then stepped aside as the man from Montana came out on the stage.
The master of ceremonies said, “The word is ‘Timbuktu!’
Thirty seconds went by as the theme from Jeopardy was played. Then the bell rang and the man stepped up to the podium and said,
“Time and I a huntin’ went.
And spied three maidens in a tent!
They being three . . . and we being two,
I bucked one . . . and TIMBUCKTU!”
I can’t remember what Uncle Tip said about who one the title of the World’s Greatest Poet.
~ CCJ 4/10/16