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It is probably inappropriate to give myself the title of Lima’s Poet Laureate. Then again, inappropriate is kind of my thing.

There are, I am certain, others out there more deserving of the Laureate title, at least on an artistic and intellectual level. To the latter, I will acknowledge that, up until about a year ago, I thought Laureate was an upsell on the Ford pickup truck. And to the former, I would count my highest artistic achievement as having come up with 17 different words that rhyme with booger.

I may not be using “artistic” the same way others would, but you have to agree, that is an achievement.

If I were to state my case for the Laureate title – and make no mistake, I am stating my case – I would point to the volume and consistency of my poetic output. For going on 20 years now, I have been publishing my work in this very space where, I am told, tens of readers have read and, in some cases, even enjoyed my efforts. I can track my first effort back to the year 1996, that infamous year the treasonous Art Modell (may he rest in something not altogether approximating peace) took the Browns from Cleveland to Baltimore.

“For Modell thought not one blue bit, about the fans’ deep love.

He cared, instead, for money and the greasing of the glove.”

That first shot resulted in some glowing reports from the critics. OK, maybe not the critics so much, but the other Browns fans seemed happy with it. And in 1996, that was not a group given to happiness.

The response was positive enough to prompt another effort later that year. This time, in a column bemoaning the Hallmark-ization of holidays, I suggested a new line of greetings cards for other, less celebratory occasions. Among them, a card for the neighbor who picked up Hep 3 on his last trip to the third world.

“Sorry 'bout your hepatitis, but your convulsions sure excite us.”

As word of my poetic skills spread, I began to work outside the confines of my column space. In 1999, I was assigned a commission (assuming that commission doesn’t actually infer any sort of payment for services) by Lima’s mayor, asking for a toast to be read at that year’s Toast to the City. I settled on a tone of optimistic honesty and, in my opening lines, said:

“Here’s to a city with much on its plate.

A city both smiled on and spat at by fate.”

It goes without saying, the mayor took some editorial license with the final product.

If I can claim to be known for any particular verse, it would have to be my annual Christmas column. Every year, to the delight of readers everywhere (in my home), I draft a holiday poem. In most cases, it is a shameless opportunity for me to highlight the cute and precocious Mills daughters, as in the year they both lobbied mercilessly for bunnies for Christmas.

“Well by now any father of daughters can guess

what became of the Mills father’s hopeless address.

It didn’t tale long for resistance to soften

(a curse he is certain he’ll take to the coffin)

And the daughters, Child 1 and Child 2, got their way

and a fluffy new bunny for this Christmas day.”

I bring this all up not mealy to lobby for laureate status (which, I assume, comes with a beret and a pack of clove cigarettes) but also to draw attention to an opportunity for some amateur verse-smiths to get in the game. April, as it happens, is National Poetry Month. The Lima Public Library, holder of the region’s finest collection of poetry books, is hosting a contest for would-be poets.

The rules are simple: Write a poem about the library, and you will have the chance to win some great prizes. Anyone can enter the contest, and there is no length requirement for the poem. Just submit your entry to the library by 5 p.m April 20. A panel of judges from the library staff will award prizes like a trip to the movies, or free bowling.

I was going to go with an homage to Elizabeth Bronte:

“And I who searched for only God, found 13 copies of those stupid 'Twilight' books.”

Or, perhaps, a riff on my favorite poet, W.B. Yeats.

“I will arise and go now, and go to library.

And the fiction stacks attack, like literary carrion.

Nine books will I take from there, and a stack of DVD.

At least ‘til I am stopped by a stern librarian.”

You get the idea. Do that, only considerably better. Obviously, as a professional poet, it would be inappropriate for me to enter.

Then again, inappropriate is kind of my thing.

Bart Mills
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