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Philadelphia’s relationship with its residents is complicated. If an outsider dares level an attack, people who love and live in Philly jump quickly to its defense. But they also recognize its many flaws, and the paradoxes of being a locus of innovation and also history, a global destination and a city of neighborhoods, a bastion of progressive government where a large part of the population continues to suffer.
All this was deftly summed up with just eight lines of rhyming meter in the winning entry to the #BillyPennVDay poetry contest.
We put out the call two weeks ago for love poems inspired by the city. After members helped narrow down the options, and everyone cast votes on five finalists, Tommy Duffin’s “End of the Day” took the top place, scoring the Northern Liberties resident a $100 gift card to Cantina Los Caballitos.
It also encouraged Duffin to continue this kind of creative writing, he told Billy Penn.
“I’m an advertising copywriter so I write for a living, but I wouldn’t categorize myself as a poet” he said, “After this, I do want to get back into writing poetry.”
Duffin landed in Philadelphia eight years ago after growing up in Ardmore, when he attended St. Joe’s Prep. He stayed for college at Temple, and is now fully invested in helping make the city great. He enjoys the duality he expressed in the winning poem.
“If I’m trying to be refined, I love Philly for the culture, food scene (best ever), art, murals, individuality,” Duffin said. “But if I’m being less refined and more honest… Just the Eagles. Go Birds.”
#BillyPennVDay 1st place winner: ‘End of the Day’
It’s not always pretty
When the Birds are bad
Or the El is late
Or the weather is shitty
But at the end of the day
I’m in love with my city
And I’ll fight anyone
Who talks shit on Gritty
The poem was translated into visual form by Billy Penn’s resident cartoonist Dre Reed.
While Duffin has brunch reservations at Suraya with his beau, the second-place contest winner will be celebrating virtually.
The namesake of Kate Southerton’s entry, “Manuel,” is still in his native Chile. Travel is difficult in general right now, especially for non-U.S. residents, she explained.
Their cross-hemisphere relationship started when Southerton was teaching in South America, she said. She didn’t know much Spanish, but he was patient with her, and when the duo found they were both musicians, they began communicating via sound.
After they fell in love, the Chilean came to visit — leading to the moment documented in Southerton’s winning poem.
“Super Bowl Sunday corresponds to his breaks,” she explained. “The second time he came was the year Philly won the Super Bowl.” They attended the parade, “and people were climbing lamp poles, throwing beer cans, and he was so worried!”
Said Manuel: “Wow, the United States is wild.”
He soon learned to appreciate Philadelphia, Southerton said, and even showed “Rocky” to his mother “to show her our city.” The pair recently got engaged.
“My personal love story is rooted in place and introducing this city to the person I love,” said the Manayunk resident, explaining why she was inspired to submit a poem — which has now also scored her a $50 gift card to Cantina on East Passyunk.
#BillyPennVDay 2nd place winner: ‘Manuel’
Manuel took his first flight
From sunny Santiago
On (I swear to God) Super Bowl Sunday
We threw on our boots and ran outside
My neighborhood wild and howling
and he said, “So this is America”
No, baby, this is Philly — let me tell you about my city
Third-place winner Alaina DeLeone doesn’t have a partner this Valentine’s Day, but that didn’t stop her from writing about her love for her adopted hometown.
The recent Temple grad became engaged with the North Philadelphia community around her school via student government, and it really made her appreciate the city, she told Billy Penn. Originally from Phoenixville, she plans to continue living in the heart of the urban grid.
“I love the history, resilience, and grit of Philadelphia,” DeLeone said. “So many awesome legends that have come from Philly, and especially North Philly!”
Never really a poet, she was just inspired by the theme. Her verse also touches on what’s so hard and different about this year — which she feels deeply as someone who’s single.
Since she’s been strictly following COVID-safe guidelines, her Valentine’s Day plans are all virtual: “I’ll be sharing a glass of wine with my galentine pod and binging some some Netflix.”
#BillyPennVDay 3rd place winner: ‘COVID V-Day’
COVID V-Day isn’t pretty
I won’t even get to kiss that jawn Gritty
While this city is known for its brotherly love
I’m out here in the singles club
Now raise a glass to the singles in Philly
V-Day 2022 will be our year, so DILLY DILLY
Congratulations to all the winners and huge thanks to everyone who sent in a poem and voted. Here’s hoping next year’s Feb. 14 is brighter and happier for all.