Lucy Vickery rss

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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


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

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

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

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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

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

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

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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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

The bigger the churn, the more the cheese. Image: Getty

Spectator competition: redefine ‘oolite’ and ‘ampthill’ (plus: your meaningless proverbs)

7 June 2014 9:30

The latest call, for proverbs that sound profound but have no meaning, attracted an enormous entry. It was a pleasure to judge, and cheering, too, to see lots of unfamiliar… Continue reading

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Spectator competition: defend the unexpected (plus: your tepid opinions about the BBC)

31 May 2014 9:30

The latest challenge, to supply a poem in praise or dispraise of the BBC, fell on somewhat stony ground. The entry felt a bit flat and you seemed to be… Continue reading

The Tay Bridge disaster. Image: Getty

Spectator competition: write an elegy for Jeremy Paxman

24 May 2014 9:30

The latest challenge to competitors was to submit a poem commenting on Scottish independence in the style of William Topaz McGonagall, the poet hailed by the TLS as ‘the only… Continue reading

Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Image: Getty

Spectator competition: invent a meaningless proverb

17 May 2014 9:30

The latest competition, in which you were invited to compose a poem celebrating a famous duo, produced a colourful cast of pairings. Ray Kelley sang the praises of Flanders and… Continue reading

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Jeffrey Archer’s six rules for writing

9 May 2014 11:40

A tweet linking to George Orwell’s famous rules for writing (‘Never use a long word where a short one will do’, etc.) prompted me to invite competitors to come up… Continue reading

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‘Great’ books best left unread: Anna Karenina, Moby Dick, Catch-22…

6 May 2014 14:37

Martin Amis compared Cervantes’ Don Quixote to ‘an indefinite visit from your most impossible senior relative, with all his pranks, dirty habits, unstoppable reminiscences, and terrible cronies’, while Kathryn Schulz,… Continue reading

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O come all ye unfaithful

3 May 2014 9:33

Organised atheism is on the rise and this prompted John Whitworth to make the excellent suggestion that I challenge competitors to come up with a hymn for atheists. Hymns do… Continue reading

Did you know that Zanzibar is the world's largest producer of cloves? Image: Getty

Tales of the inconsequential

26 April 2014 10:00

My cache of conversational titbits has been considerably boosted by the most recent challenge that I threw down to Spectator readers. I asked for an extract from either a gripping… Continue reading

Byron's Muse.

Poetry in motion — and bridges and graves

19 April 2014 15:00

The most recent challenge, to incorporate a list of poets’ surnames — motion, bridges, wilde, gray, cope, hood, burns and browning — into a poem or piece of prose, presented… Continue reading

(Image: ERIC CABANIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Six books to leave unread when you die

12 April 2014 13:32

The recent challenge to compose the most off-putting book blurb imaginable elicited an avalanche of entries. This was one of those competitions that is both a pleasure and a pain… Continue reading

The Rake's Progress

Verse about vice

5 April 2014 4:00

William Congreve wrote, in the Epistle Dedicatory to his 1693 comedy The Double-Dealer, that it is the business of a comic poet to paint the vice and follies of humankind… Continue reading

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Competition: Write a book blurb to repel readers

22 March 2014 9:30

You were on stellar form this week on the darker side of spring: the entry was full of wit and invention. There were references to Larkin, who could always be… Continue reading

‘It is the business of a comic poet to paint the vices and follies of humankind’. William Congreve. Image: Getty

Spectator competition winners: 50 shades of…

15 March 2014 9:30

Last week, you were asked to dream up a short story entitled “Fifty Shades of”. The entries were a bit of a mixed bag, but I enjoyed Gerard Benson’s twist… Continue reading