It's the first poem about David Bowie to win the Pulitzer Prize. Tracy K. Smith's collection Life on Mars contains many references to the man she salutes as the "Pope of Pop." Inspired by Smith, we asked for your poem about the rock star or other teen idol who captured your imagination – as a teenager or now. (Read all of the poems here.)
Tracy K. Smith is back into the studio to pick a winner: Matthew Roth, a 26-year old from Raleigh, North Carolina, whose poem "To Justin Timberlake" captures a moment of casual bravado between the singer and his buddy Timbaland. "There's a lot of great swagger," Smith says. "It's so of this moment." She also praises a poem by Carol Alexander about Janice Joplin's days in Port Arthur, Texas. "The words and images – oil, diaspore, tumbleweeds – that recur also create a really musical space in the poem."
Winner: "To Justin Timberlake" (read by Tracy K. Smith)by Matthew Roth – Raleigh, North Carolina
JT steps out of the studio backwards he slides in a borrowed slipshod softshoe (from MJ) he dizzies his hip shift & doffs his cap which may or may not be a prop. From the doorway Timbaland arms-crossed head-nods bubbling his best Quincy Jones. They skip down the street for tacos. Justin shows Timbo his phone cracking up, he is crying on Punk'd from his palm or decked all in denim with that damn BS.
Timbaland mumbles a trombone solo and Hollywood bumps & rings around them reverberating through school bus & dorm room heads bobbing over homework across deserts & cornfields, muddy rivers & sinks full of soap where husbands two-step dastardly.
Justin, how could anyone love you more than I who have been won over from adolescent spite by the irrefutable humors of your unlikely funk? How has your dumb stubble charmed me so past insincere t-shirts to join in the joyous links of your shimmering cyclical falsetto soul?
Honorable Mention: "Port Arthur Girl" (read by Tracy K. Smith) by Carol Alexander – New York City, New York
Down around Port Arthur the tumbleweed, that mobile diaspore,flings its seeds in a race with time, dying in a pool of rain or oil.And what they have is a lot of sky and oil tanks coddling crudeand girls in much more underwear than they wear way up North.Mining land is deeply scarred and raw, the gravel pits alien,like lunar landscapes or the bank where Charon plies his trade.The young ones necking in their cars, the ugly bars, showed youthe rocking road away from that stripped coastal town.
Somehow you made it, broke and battered, to the pounding stage.We heard you wailing, every labored breath a paean to the actof love; girls of thirteen squirming in their jeans, electrified,right there with you banging some bluesy guy with everythingyou got and more–ah, pour it out, Janis, tumbling diaspore.Flag down that glory train and belt it out with whiskey breathand the stash of speed that lovers said you didn't need.
What can you do if there is simply more of you than the girdled townand the gridded streets allow? They didn't claim you then or nowin that spectral year when every other page regaled us with the talesof players dying in their vomit pools, snatching from us justthat small bit more, goading us to play your albums louder sothe bass reverbed and shook the angry neighbor's floor.Play on, beauty, ravaged, strands of rough hair in your mouth,the hot ecstatic winds of Monterey resounding like a dirge,rafting us across that river, to some bright, abiding shore.