The latest competition — asking for a poem of 16 lines in which the lines begin with the letters of the alphabet from A to P — proved to be a real crowd-pleaser, attracting not only the regulars but many welcome new faces too.
You were at your witty and inventive best, and I offer commiserations to a long list of unlucky losers: Sylvia Fairley, Paul Evans, A.K. Colam, Martin Eayrs, Nigel Stuart, Ralph Rochester and Brian Allgar. Class swot Bill Greenwell, who gave himself an additional challenge by ending each line of his poem with the letters K to Z, earns a gold star.
The prizewinners, printed below, are rewarded with £25 each. Basil Ransome-Davies scoops the extra fiver.
All poets lie, Pascal implied;
But that’s their very game.
Chaucer was one who lied and lied,
Dryden much the same.
Eliot wouldn’t know the truth
From Ezra Pound’s backside.
Gray went to Eton in his youth;
He eloquently lied.
If Wild Walt Whitman’s big I Am
Just takes you for a ride,
Kid, never mind. It’s all a scam.
Like Tennyson, he lied.
Milton told tales, but for which side?
Nobody seems to know it.
O bards, what guilty truths you hide.
Praise god, I’m not a poet.
Alfred Lord Tennyson gave us a benison:
Bedivere tending to Arthur his king.
Coleridge managed to write about Xanadu,
Domes full of pleasure and Alph’s sacred
Edward Fitzgerald was Omar’s great herald,
Fashioning fingers that wrote and moved on.
Gray got his elegy in every anthology,
Holding a candle for those that have gone.
In Shakespeare the sonnet had honour heaped
Just like his plays that were better than best.
Keats gave us odes in which poetry explodes,
Letting him live though he’s long gone to rest.
Milton was blind and was one of a kind,
Nearing his maker in ‘Paradise Lost’.
Others there are who were destined to star,
Poets of perfection, a heavenly host.
curses his eminence,
dazed and beguiled.
forays in nudity
garner him stardom in
Hamlet Gone Wild.
knows what it’s like to be
left in the shit.
newsmongers slaver for
off-colour titbits on
All the world’s a stage, as Shakespeare wrote,
But few of us have roles of any note;
Casts come and go, repeating what’s been said,
Doing the same old parts others have played.
Every so often someone rises tall
Filling the stage to overshadow all,
Giving a great performance and displaying
How transience can find a way of staying.
Illustrious victors live beyond their day
Joining the stars in some mysterious way;
Kings are recalled to play their role once more
Living their reign in history’s copious store.
Masters of words receive a further part
Nudged out of death’s oblivion by their art.
Only the great re-enter time’s domain;
People like us don’t get to live again.
African elephants hate apple crumble.
Badgers spurn toad in the hole.
Cheese disagrees with all bees but the bumble.
Doughnuts spell death to the vole.
Egypt’s Nile crocodile eats gluten free,
Fussing when choosing its dish,
Getting upset if the omega 3
Has low concentrations in fish.
In Mali the hedgehog is rarely observed.
Japan is devoid of the skunk.
Kangaroos’ reputation for spite is deserved.
Lemurs laugh coarsely when drunk.
My scholarly knowledge of facts such as these,
Notwithstanding the burden it brings,
Offers hope of a fellowship — possibly Caius,
Peterhouse, Pembroke or King’s.
A toupee, bought to hide a patch,
Blending well in natural light,
Changed to a shade that didn’t match,
Discernibly, alas, at night.
Enticing, then, to try instead
Full fig, as women freely can,
Going blonde or dark or red,
However suits their fashion plan.
It’s not that easy, though, for men,
Judged by where the nape fringe goes:
Knowing glances now and then
Look at where it never grows.
Mercifully — God knows why —
New growth sprang up: no need for weaves
Or transplant schemes that go awry —
Palliatives for a loss that grieves.
Break-ups are very much on the agenda at the moment. Your next challenge is to submit a Dear John letter, in prose or verse, in the style of a well-known author (please specify). Please email (wherever possible) entries of up to 16 lines or 150 words to email@example.com by midday on 5 April.