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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

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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

9 Comments
Little Miss Muffet cast in sand at the  Creepy Crawlies Sandscupting Exhibition in Melbourne, Australia. Image: Getty

Spectator competition: recast a nursery rhyme in the style of a well-known author (plus pets who perish in unusual ways)

16 August 2014 9:28

I was prompted to ask for short odes on the death of a pet in unusual circumstances by Thomas Gray’s poem ‘Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned… Continue reading

2 Comments
Flanders Fields 100 Years Since The Great War

Spectator competition: write a preview in verse of when the lights go out (plus voter-repelling party political broadcasts)

9 August 2014 9:00

The recent call for off-putting party political broadcasts on behalf of the Tories, Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens or Ukip drew a surprisingly small entry. But the Green party… Continue reading

6 Comments
Image: Getty

Spectator competition: provide snippets of misleading advice for British tourists travelling abroad (plus Margaret Thatcher’s secret love poetry)

2 August 2014 9:30

The recent challenge to unmask a secret poet among well-known figures from 20th-century history produced a postbag full of politician-bards, which included poignant lines from the pens of Edward Heath… Continue reading

3 Comments
A chicken smokes its final cigarette. Image: Getty

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

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… Continue reading

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Spectator competition: craft a voter-repelling party political broadcast (plus James Joyce and co. give Phil Neville a masterclass in football commentary)

19 July 2014 9:30

Unkind comparisons were drawn, after his commentary debut, between Phil Neville’s style and a speak-your-weight machine. One Twitter user speculated, when the England physio was stretchered off injured, that it… Continue reading

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Estate Agents – how much longer will they be around? Image: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

Spectator competition: unmask a well-known figure of the 20th century who is also a secret poet (plus elegies for postmen and headsmen)

12 July 2014 9:30

Estate agents, travel agents, publishers, record company executives; all have seen their livelihoods put in jeopardy by a brave new digital world. So it seemed fitting to invite competitors to… Continue reading

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Yoko Ono. Image: Getty

Spectator competition: Decide what Leigh Hunt’s Jenny did next (plus oblique cooking with Yoko Ono)

5 July 2014 9:33

As if there weren’t enough recipe books in the world, the latest assignment challenged competitors to invent a title for yet another one, with a fresh angle, and supply a… Continue reading

2 Comments
At the end of the day it's a game of two halves. Image: Getty

Spectator competition: give Phil Neville a lesson in the art of World Cup commentary (plus oolite and ampthill redefined)

28 June 2014 8:52

The most recent competition invited you to incorporate the following seven words (real geological terms) into a piece of plausible and entertaining prose so that they acquire a new meaning… Continue reading

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Cobblers. Endangered? Image: Getty

Spectator competition: compose an elegy for an endangered profession (plus Jack Kerouac gets the golfing bug)

21 June 2014 9:30

Competitors rose admirably to the recent challenge to step into the shoes of a well-known writer and submit a poem or piece of prose in praise or defence of something… Continue reading

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Image: Getty

Spectator competition: provide a publisher’s blurb for a cookbook with a twist (plus your elegies for Jeremy Paxman)

14 June 2014 9:30

In Competition No. 2851 you were invited to mark Jeremy Paxman’s departure from Newsnight by supplying an extract from an interview with a politician or statesman in which the interviewer… Continue reading

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