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Circa 1670, English diarist and reformer of the navy, Samuel Pepys (1633 - 1703). (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Spectator competition: a Pepys’-eye view of the 21st century (plus: female chauvinist authors)

28 February 2015 12:19

It was Samuel Pepys’s birthday this week and for the latest competition you were invited to imagine him let loose on the streets of 21st-century London and to provide a… Continue reading

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Image: Getty

Spectator competition: ‘Shall I compare thee to a camembert?’ — new ways with Sonnet 18 (plus acrostic poets)

21 February 2015 9:30

The challenge to put a fresh spin on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 was the most popular competition for ages. The brief was to replace ‘summer’s day’ with a trisyllable of your… Continue reading

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Spectator competition: pogonophobe or pogonophile? (plus: lines on heaven and hell)

15 February 2015 10:28

The beard has come a long way since the dark days of Mr Twit, Jimmy Hill and The Joy of Sex. As Ekow Eshun points out in his insightful essay… Continue reading

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I see his face in every flower. Images: Getty

Spectator competition: ‘I really like Ed Miliband. Am I normal?’ Agony uncle Dan Brown responds (plus: a Samuel Pepys’-eye view of 21st-century London)

7 February 2015 8:30

The Japanese novelist-turned-agony uncle Haruki Murakami is currently dishing out advice to fans on topics that range from cats and hate speech to parenting and infidelity. The call to cast… Continue reading

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Image: Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Spectator competition: Ed Miliband’s bacon roll blues (plus: new ways with Sonnet 18)

31 January 2015 9:22

The most recent challenge asked for blues songs from well-known politicians contemplating the forthcoming general election. In a small but accomplished entry the Lib Dem leader dominated the stage. John… Continue reading

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Image: Getty

Spectator competition: Henry VIII’s bedroom tax (plus: poems about beards)

24 January 2015 9:30

In Competition No. 2881 you were invited to take your lead from Carol Ann Duffy and provide an amusing poem about a piece of government legislation. The first line of… Continue reading

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Richard Dawkins. Could these blurbs make the bible his book of the year? Image: Getty

Spectator competition: Not Richard Dawkins’s Book of the Year (plus: literary agony uncles and aunts)

17 January 2015 9:15

The recent call for publicity blurbs that sell the bible to a modern audience attracted a host of new competitors as well as the old-timers. Kieran Corcoran’s entry presented Jesus… Continue reading

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Circa 30 AD, Jesus Christ being kissed by Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed him. Original Publication: From 'The Judas Kiss' by Dore. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Spectator competition: another side of Judas Iscariot (plus: singing the election blues)

12 January 2015 18:30

The latest competition invited you to take a leaf out of Hilary Mantel’s book and provide a scene that shows a well-known villain from history or literature in an uncharacteristically… Continue reading

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'Bedroom tax' report

Spectator competition: New Year haikus (plus: a poem about the bedroom tax)

6 January 2015 18:45

Your New Year challenge was to submit a poem composed of three haikus that looks forward to the year ahead. The traditional Japanese haiku contains 17 syllables in three unrhymed… Continue reading

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'Micawber in his element' - Artist -  Fred Barnard  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Spectator competition: Mr Micawber’s Christmas round robin (plus: sell the Bible to modern audiences)

20 December 2014 9:30

This year’s festive comp asked for Christmas round robins as they might have been written by a well-known fictional character. It was all there: the boasts, bad jokes, inappropriate intimacies… Continue reading

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John Betjeman. Image: Getty

Spectator competition: rapping poets laureate (plus: give a villain a makeover)

8 December 2014 18:00

The latest competition invited you to follow in the footsteps of Andrew Motion, who as poet laureate wrote a ‘rap’ to mark Prince William’s 21st birthday. It was bad enough… Continue reading

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Hong Kong Customs Seize Endangered Species Cargo

Spectator competition: unlikely aphrodisiacs (plus: New Year haikus)

29 November 2014 9:30

It was ‘In Praise of Cocoa — Cupid’s Nightcap’ by that legend of the comping world Stanley J. Sharpless that gave me the idea for the most recent challenge, to… Continue reading

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The slaying of the Jabberwock (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Spectator competition: ‘Jabberwocky’ for the digital age (plus: Christmas round robins from fictional characters)

22 November 2014 9:30

The call for scenes describing a well-known character from children’s literature past grappling with a 21st-century problem drew an entry full of wit and variety. Pamela Dow reimagined Louisa May… Continue reading

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Love at second sight? The Pompidou Centre. Image: Getty

Spectator competition: buildings to love and hate (plus: rapping poet laureates)

15 November 2014 9:30

Buildings can provoke strong reactions and the call for poems in praise or dispraise of a well-known one produced a satisfyingly robust entry. Frank McDonald took me at my word… Continue reading

3 Comments
No thanks. E.E. Cummings. Image: Getty

Spectator competition: acknowledgment pages that say thanks but no thanks (plus: verse viagra)

8 November 2014 9:35

E.E. Cummings does the anti-dedication in style in his 1935 volume tellingly titled No Thanks, which he self-published with financial help from his mother. Its dedication page contains a concrete… Continue reading

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Image: Getty

Spectator competition: Autumn villanelles (plus: poems in praise or dispraise of well-known buildings)

26 October 2014 9:30

Stephen Fry is a fan of the villanelle — it was what inspired him to write his how-to book for poets, The Ode Less Travelled. And so are you, if… Continue reading

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"William Archibald Spooner Vanity Fair 1898-04-21" by Leslie Ward - Published in Vanity Fair, 21 April 1898, as "Men of the Day" Number 711.Downloaded from http://www.antiquemapsandprints.com/scansj/j-20476.jpg. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Spectator competition: tips of the slung — or poems as the Revd W.A. Spooner might have written them (plus: an author’s acknowledgments page with a twist)

18 October 2014 9:23

The diminutive, myopic Revd W.A. Spooner was the inspiration behind the recent call for Spooneristic poems. The long-time warden of New College, Oxford bequeathed us such comic gems as ‘The… Continue reading

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Spectator competition: a magical realist shipping forecast (plus: a dialogue in verse between God and man)

11 October 2014 9:43

Since the death of Gabriel Garcia Marquez earlier this year, I have been meaning to set a comp with a magical realist twist and I finally got around to it… Continue reading

4 Comments
By Rudyard Kipling (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Spectator competition: a final ‘if’ for Kipling’s ‘If’ (plus: compose an autumn villanelle)

4 October 2014 9:29

The call to add a final stanza to a well-known poem attracted an enormous entry. Nicholas Stone imagined how Coleridge might have continued had it not been for the intrusion… Continue reading

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"William Archibald Spooner Vanity Fair 1898-04-21" by Leslie Ward - Published in Vanity Fair, 21 April 1898, as "Men of the Day" Number 711.Downloaded from http://www.antiquemapsandprints.com/scansj/j-20476.jpg. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Spectator competition: when prose and poetry meet (plus: verse in the manner of Revd W.A. Spooner)

27 September 2014 9:30

The challenge to pick a well-known poem and write a short story with the same title using the poem’s opening and closing lines to begin and end the piece drew… Continue reading

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FASHION-ITALY-BLUGIRL-BACKSTAGE

Spectator competition: poets’ selfies (plus: liven up something mundane with a dose of magic realism)

21 September 2014 15:09

The latest challenge, to compose a poet’s elegy for him or herself, took you down a path trod by poor Chidiock Tichborne. He wrote his own elegy, the poignant ‘Tichborne’s… Continue reading

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Regulars Enjoy A Traditional Black Country Pub

Spectator competition: why death is good for you (plus: add a final stanza to a well-known poem)

13 September 2014 10:30

The recent invitation to submit an imaginary feature from a newspaper’s health pages extolling the benefits to wellbeing of something traditionally thought to be bad for you drew a smallish… Continue reading

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Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images

Spectator competition: write a poetic short story (plus: Philip Larkin’s version of Humpty-Dumpty)

6 September 2014 9:30

The invitation to recast a nursery rhyme in the style of a well-known author attracted a large and lively entry that was evenly split between prose and poetry. In general,… Continue reading

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Image: Getty

Spectator competition: compose a poet’s verse selfie (plus: what happens when the lights go out)

30 August 2014 10:30

Submissions to the latest competition, which invited you to provide a poetic preview of when the lights go out, were impressively varied and kept me thoroughly entertained. Honourable mentions go… Continue reading

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Spectator competition: make the case for sugar, fags and a sedentary lifestyle (plus: how not to curry favour with US customs officials)

23 August 2014 9:30

The recent challenge to come up with misleading advice for British tourists travelling abroad produced a postbag that was infused with a spirit of sadistic mischief. As usual with comps… Continue reading

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