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Coffee House Culture House Daily

Spectator competition: write an ode on the death of a pet in unusual circumstances (plus what Leigh Hunt’s Jenny did next)

26 July 2014

9:30 AM

26 July 2014

9:30 AM

Leigh Hunt’s much-anthologised mini rondeau ‘Jenny Kissed Me’ was the inspiration for the latest challenge, which asked competitors to take its first line, substitute another word for ‘kissed’ and continue for up to 16 lines. The poem was apparent-ly inspired by Thomas Carlyle’s wife, Jane Welsh, who gave Hunt a smacker on learning that he’d recovered from a severe bout of flu — as Ray Kelley obviously knows. Here is the concluding half of his excellent entry:

Who was Jenny, from her chair
Leaping? It was Jane Carlyle.
She and Tom, that inkstained pair,
Were my neighbours for a while.
Sometimes only Jane was there
In their Chelsea domicile…
Memories make this crocodile
Smile.

Jenny proved to be a real crowd-puller and produced a high-calibre field. A con-gratulatory slap on the back all round, with special mentions to A.J.K. Backus, Mi-chael Growcott, Nick Grace, Matt Quinn, Gail White and Mike Morrison. The magnificent seven printed below earn their authors £20 each. Mae Scanlan scoops the extra fiver.

Mae Scanlan
Jenny stunned me when we met;
It had been ten years or better.
She’d grown old and heavy-set —
Rolls of fat beneath her sweater.

Underneath each eye a sack that
You could fit a cat inside of;
Frankenstein’s the likely quack that
She could maybe be a bride of.

Jenny used to be a knockout;
Not a fellow could resist her.
Now, she’s one you’d like to block out,
Looking like Medusa’s sister.

Say I’m bald — no gift to ladies;
Say the God of Handsome shunned me.
She’s, however, straight from Hades;
Jenny stunned me.

Alanna Blake
Jenny bit me when we met,
Though I’m sure she didn’t mean to;
She was hiding, cold and wet,
In the little garden lean-to.
Poor wee thing in such distress
Lashing out — no one could blame her.
Name on collar, no address,
Likely nobody will claim her.

[Alt-Text]


First I fed her, dried her fur,
From some rooted sense of duty,
Then I stroked her, heard her purr,
Found I had a tawny beauty.
Say I’m soppy, say I’m mad,
Say six strays is one too many,
Say you’ll leave me, I’m still glad
We’ve kept Jenny!

Sylvia Fairley
Jenny beat me when we met
In a vicious game of tennis,
Smashed a volley at the net,
Broke my serve; the girl’s a menace.
Sliced returns with lethal aim,
Whacked my balls, this girl could eat me;
How can I endure the shame?
Jenny beat me.

Jenny thrashed me, game and set —
Kissed me once; I couldn’t hack it.
She’d resolved I’d pay the debt,
Sought my guts to string her racquet.
Fifteen… thirty… forty-love,
One match point before she lashed me.
As I’d given her the shove,
Jenny thrashed me.

Frank Upton
Jenny sack’d me when we met,
Frowning from the chair she sat in;
I, the atheroma, set,
She, the lipid-busting statin.
Profits down by three per cent
Placed on her a heavy onus:
Leverage our complement
Or she’d not receive her bonus.
Bloomberg ask me, five years gone,
Now my company has floated,
Who it was who spurred me on?
Who my breakaway promoted?
‘Say I’m famous, say I’m glad,
Say it was the folk who backed me,
Say I’m growing rich, but add:
Jenny sack’d me.’

Basil Ransome-Davies
Jenny freaked out when we met
In a bar in Barcelona,
She I’d sweated to forget,
She for whom I’d lived a loner.

Jenny, who cost more than gold,
Jenny of the wondrous body,
Jenny who blew hot and cold,
Jenny sober, Jenny voddy.

Who would want another trip,
Mad and blind, to Heartbreak Junction?
I tapped my watch and touched my lip,
Headed for a business function.

Memories, like dwindling wine,
Must be savoured, sipped and eked out
Like my frugal final line –
Jenny freaked out!

Chris O’Carroll
Jenny shot me when we met,
Laughing at my shocked expression.
Says she did it on a bet
To undermine my self-possession.

Jenny smiled at distraught me,
All agape and goggle-eyed.
Utterly off-guard she caught me,
Gasping, stumbling. ‘Wha . . . ?’ I cried.

She flicked the lights on, jumped out, shot me.
I recoiled, threw up an arm.
Who likes a moment like that? Not me.
Jenny says she means no harm,

Says such shots are all in fun.
That’s not what her shooting taught me.
I’m glad she didn’t use a gun
When her iPhone shot me.

Jerome Betts
Jenny flashed me late last week
After tennis at the vicar’s.
What a brazen bit of cheek!
No red Sharapovan knickers
But a glimpse of . . . I must say
Spicy visions have goulashed me
Since the heat-inducing day
Jenny flashed me!

Your next challenge is to submit a short ode (there’s only room for 16 lines max., I’m afraid) on the death of a pet in unusual circumstances. Take a look at Robert Gray’s ‘Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes’ for inspiration. Please email entries to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 6 August.

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