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Word games

Professor emerita invites local riddlers with poetry competition

By Mandy Cook

Linking an object or phenomenon to the human.

The “mind leap” that characterizes the definition of the literary riddle form is at the heart of the MindLeap Poetry Competition.

The contest is inviting entrants to create riddle-poems – like Anglo-Saxon riddling poems – in which one of the following entities speaks: apple, bread, cancer, concrete, mask, motorcycle, Netflix, onion, the letter M or the letter O, tree and Zoom. The reader, or in this case, the riddle-poem judge, must guess the speaker.

The MindLeap contest is being sponsored by Mary Dalton, professor emerita of English at Memorial, to celebrate National Poetry Month in her role of poet laureate of St. John’s. The contest regulations are available on the Department of English’s website.

Read on for an example of one of Prof. Dalton’s riddle-poems (the answer is at the bottom of this article if you can’t puzzle it out).

An old man, an infant:

my emblems.

I run through the fields like a hare.

I run my fingers through your hair.

‘Recognizing the mystery’

Prof. Dalton says she is eager to receive the riddle submissions, in which she says each word and image, as well as sound and lineation, should contribute to hinting at the speaker.

Along with the chant, the spell and the curse, the riddle form is one of the very earliest sources of poetry, she says.

“It both embodies and sharpens a way of thinking – of recognizing the mystery of all things, of holding within itself bits of knowledge and lore, and of sharpening one’s wits and testing others’ wits.”

If you’re a word and a puzzle enthusiast, you have until Tuesday, May 11, at 3 p.m. to try your hand. The winner will have their riddle-poem published in The Telegram newspaper and will be awarded $100 and a package of poetry volumes.

As for the speaker of Prof. Dalton’s riddle above? Time.

Next up in the local poetry sphere are two new series of Flahoolic, Prof. Dalton’s podcast that is produced by CHMR-FM, Memorial’s campus radio station. The podcast is a collaboration between the university and the City of St. John’s. The upcoming series 3 and 4, focusing on several Newfoundland poets, are being funded through the university’s Office of Public Engagement. You can listen to the first two series of Flahoolic here.


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