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There are four hundred poems,” the president of the poetry society said over the phone, “but judging won’t take you that long, because most of them are pretty bad.” The next day the poems arrived in an apple carton, three bundles bound with rubber bands, and I spread them out in the squares of sunshine on my dining-room table. O dining-room table, dear old friend, home of my mournful mashed potatoes. Four hundred poems, enough to fill a bread box, by 93 poets who hoped to win one of four modest cash prizes-modest to you, but no prize is modest…

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