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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Should limerick contest live?

If I were a Shakespearean scholar, I might begin this column by writing something such as, “Now is the winter of our discontent.”

This is, after all, the dregs of the winter season. It’s that time of year when, even though the days are getting longer, the darkness seems as oppressive as Darth Vader’s underwear. And the temperature, on occasion, dips south of single digits.

But for the past decade, at least, I’ve helped myself stave off the wintertime blues by looking forward to the annual Spokesman-Review Limericks Contest.

Yet I’m thinking that particular contest may have run its course.

We began it in 1998 as a giggle, but it attracted a lot of serious crafters – Spokane’s Dennis Johnson, to name one – who work in the particular style of verse that uses five lines, tight rhymes and, in the best tradition, a suggestion of smut to titillate those of us who read it.

At its height, in 2004, the contest attracted 371 limerick writers from all over the country who submitted a total of 716 entries. By last year, even though we were offering prizes, that number had dropped to 75 writers and 308 total entries.

It’s hard to tell the reason for the drop. Maybe it’s our insistence on original work, a requirement we ensure by changing the theme each year.

In 2004, the topic was food of the Inland Northwest; last year we suggested a subject complicated to the point of incomprehension: “Spokane – near nature, near perfect: missing the mark – or not! Legends, lunacies and luminaries.”

Maybe last year’s problem was that we over-thought things just a wee bit.

Or maybe the contest, like most things, has outlived its usefulness. So we want to hear from you, the readers.

Do we start a second decade of limerick contests? Or do we let it go – all Samuel Butler scholars rejoice – the way of all flesh?

Send your comments to Limericks Contest, c/o Dan Webster, The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210-1615. Or e-mail danw@spokesman.com.

Grave talking

Thomas Lynch, the undertaker/essayist/poet author of “The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade,” has joined the cast of Get Lit! 2008.

The event, Eastern Washington University’s annual celebration of all things literary, will be April 16 to 19 in Spokane and Cheney.

Lynch will read from his latest book, “Booking Passage: We Irish and Americans,” at 4:15 p.m. on April 19 at the Bing Crosby Theater.

For ticket information, call (800) 325-SEAT or go online at www.ticketswest.com.

Unless otherwise noted, all events are free and open to the public.

Book talk

•Dark City Mystery Book Group (“Sisters on the Case,” by Sara Paretsky), 7 p.m. Monday, Auntie’s Bookstore, Main and Washington. Call (509) 838-0206.

•Friends of Cheney Community Library Book Discussion Group (“The Worst Hard Time,” by Timothy Egan; discussion leader Joann Daugherty), 7 p.m. Tuesday, 610 First St., Cheney. Call Joan Tracy, (509) 235-4490.

•On Sacred Grounds Reader’s Club (“The Bourne Identity,” by Robert Ludlum), 1 p.m. Wednesday, On Sacred Grounds, 12212 E. Palouse Highway, Valleyford, Wash. Call (509) 747-6294.

•Who Reads What Book Discussion Group (“Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time,” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin; “Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil,” by Deborah Rodriguez and Kristin Ohlson), 7 p.m. Thursday, Colfax branch, Whitman County Library, 102 S. Main St., Colfax. Call (509) 397-4366.

•Auntie’s Youth Book Group (“Urchin of the Riding Stars: Mismantle Chronicles, Book 1,” by M.I. McAllister), 2 p.m. Saturday, Auntie’s Bookstore.

The reader board

•Kathy Kelly (“Other Lands Have Dreams: From Baghdad to Pekin Prison”), talk, 7 p.m. Friday, Jepson Auditorium, Gonzaga University. Call (509) 838-7870.

•Will North (“The Long Walk Home”), reading, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Auntie’s Bookstore.

•Pat Cary Peek (“Silver Threads: War in the Coeur d’Alenes 1891-1892”), reading, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, BookPeople, 521 S. Main St., Moscow, Idaho. Call (509) 882-7957.

•Jim Ebisch (“Mines and Madness”), signing, 1-2:30 p.m. Saturday, Auntie’s Bookstore.

•Jamie Leigh Hansen (“Betrayed”), signing, 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Coeur d’Alene Borders, 450 W. Wilbur Ave., Coeur d’Alene. Call (208) 762-4497.

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