That's not Journalism. That's Poetry!

The biggest, baddest bloviators in town match witlessness in our Columnist Poetry Slam

"I hope you laughed." She pauses, apparently waiting for the audience to agree. "Thank you for calling and e-mailing and writing me notes on pretty stationery with pink scalloped edges.

"When you write a column like Real Life, one of the best things about your workday is the people -- both the readers and the story subjects. George Chalhub was one of my favorites," she says, pulling from her pocket a photo of a wrinkled man sitting on a rickety front porch. Minor is sitting on his lap, blocking most of his face from the photographer.

"There have been so many others," she says, emphasizing that she has used the word I in 621 columns.

Jay Bevenour

She raises her voice and spread her arms, as if making an important proclamation. "Now, I invite you to follow along as I start another chapter of writing at the Palm Beach Post. I am leaving the features department."

Then Emily puts her head into her hands, the crumpled poem soaking up tears. Exiting without reading her poem, she exclaims, "I wanted humor and sweetness."

The crowd is confused. There's some sporadic applause. "Well, I guess that was her poem," one judge declares.

Things have definitely taken a turn for the weird. Still, it seems that Winston has the Slam title in the bag when Buddy Nevins, the Sentinel's political columnist, steps up to the mic. Well, he steps next to the mic -- it is set too high for him to reach, and it appears to be stuck. Undaunted, he pulls over an empty chair, clambers up on it and says the name of his poem: Short Columnist's Blues.

This is a tale of political revenge.

This is a tale of interference in the justice system.

This is a tale of raw political power.

It's not a pretty story:

A hero is supposed to stand tall on a backbone of steel.

At five feet, three inches tall, the Public Defender's Office's Howard Finkelstein is hardly a formidable figure.

Also at five feet, three inches tall (without the cowboy boots) is Fred Lippman, one of Florida's most powerful legislators.

Full disclosure: I'm five feet, four inches and very happy.

I am five feet, four inches tall now and was shorter in school.

I was often picked on.

In politics, what goes on in public is often being manipulated from behind

the screen like that scene in the Wizard of Oz.

Don't look behind the screen.

You might see Sheriff Ken Jenne pulling the strings.

He is doing this quietly.

He is doing this from the background.

But like the Wizard of Oz, Jenne is the man behind the screen controlling everything.

A snub by Jenne can destroy careers.

He has a well-deserved reputation for political revenge.

He is a master of the well-placed rumor and the unspoken threat.

Few have the guts to stand up to him.

I know five feet, eight inches.

You're no five feet, eight inches, Sheriff Jenne.

I can look you in the eyes.

Maybe five feet, five inches, but no five feet, eight inches.

Don't underestimate the pettiness and jealousy.

Critics accuse Jenne of turning the whispered smear,

the shouted threat, and backbiting into a high art.

Now Jenne's machinations are coming back to haunt him.

The quid pro quo -- you do me a favor and I'll do one for you --

greases the wheels of politics.

Shouldn't we have special classes to teach tolerance for the short?

The audience leaps from their seats, as does the entire panel of judges, all clapping, snapping their fingers, cheering. The judges all look at one another: We have our winner. And Nevins just stands there, soaking it up, feeling ten feet tall. Well, at least five foot eight.

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