The performance poet Megan Beech was so incensed by the abuse heaped by Twitter trolls on her idol Mary Beard that she wrote a poem called ‘When I Grow Up I Want to Be Mary Beard’ (‘an academic and a classy lady to boot’). With this in mind, I invited you to provide a poem with the same title but substituting your own choice for Professor Beard.
Another classicist, the esteemed Peter Jones, was the object of W.J. Webster’s affection. Otherwise it was an eclectic entry that ranged from the Dalai Lama to Donald Trump. Commendations to Alan Millard, Douglas G. Brown and Paul Carpenter, who wants to be Rod Liddle when he grows up. The winners earn £25 each.
I think I’d like to be the Dalai Lama —
someone whose purpose is to make life calmer
beyond the Twitter-world’s fake news and drama,
conspiracy-mad theories of Big Pharma
and social media’s rôle as an alarmer;
like one whose peaceful habits are as armour,
as tuned into the seasons as a farmer,
who sees the earth as one large diorama
to be respected (therefore, not a harmer)
taking life’s journey quiet as a palmer
and focused on creation of good karma,
gentler and less exotic than a llama,
as careful of all things as an embalmer,
with courtesy and kindness a disarmer —
yes, there’s a model, truly grown-up, charmer.
When I grow up I want to be
the fires of Hell would set me free
from a semi-detached in Barnet.
I’d lead all innocents astray
and fan the flames of lust;
depravity’s the devil’s way;
it’s healthy and robust.
I’d violate humanity,
corruption would be rife,
inciting the inanity
of conflict and of strife.
Then strip the planet — ha! too late,
there goes my fiendish fun,
the world turned to a hellish state?
The job’s already done.
When I grow up I wanna be Abe Lincoln.
Or just stay me, ’cause, really, what’s the gain?
I’m just like Abe. We’re both real good at thinkin’.
That China guy has seen my large, large brain.
My face would look real perfect on a penny,
Though that’s a silly kinda place to be.
Much better some big bill. That’s if there’s any
Big bill they make that’s big enough for me.
But Lincoln, he gave speeches. To this day
There’s lots of people who remember those,
’Cause they were rated, some would maybe say,
As big as this one. Who knows? No one knows?
And Lincoln was no wimp. Boy, would he rage!
You got in his way, you would get a thump.
They’ll call me ‘Lincoln of the Modern Age’.
No! They’ll call him the Gettysburgy Trump.
When I grow up I want to be John Wesley,
A man of moral force and firm belief.
Not sensual and profane like Elvis Presley,
Or like my Uncle Bob, a drunken thief.
I’d love to do the fire-and-brimstone preaching
That sandbagged listeners until they wept,
To wear out horses travelling, beseeching.
In Wesley the evangel never slept.
He had no time for harsh preordination,
The dogma that put iron in Calvin’s soul.
Like him, I’d be an agent of salvation,
Playing a selfless, liberating role.
Yet though he is the nonesuch, the ideal,
Unless I can suppress my urge to rob
And get shitfaced on plonk at every meal
It’s likely I’ll take after Uncle Bob.
I want to be an expert in some field,
To take a sphere of thought and make it mine:
That’s the kind of power I’d like to wield,
Where sage and teacher seamlessly combine.
Not science, since the numbers numb my brain,
But some past time when great ideas were bred
In ghostly tongues whose meanings I’d make plain,
And show that what’s still read is never dead.
I would not take a modish, lofty view,
Awarding ancient cultures beta plus
For incorrectly thinking that they knew
The things they really should have learned from us.
Instead I’d be the man whose Greece and Rome
Are places living now inside his head,
With lessons for us he brings sharply home —
Yes, I’d go on where Peter Jones has led.
When I grow up I want to be Mad Annie.
I see her in the mirror every day.
She might look like an inoffensive granny
But she’s a troublemaker in her way.
I’ll trail my shopping trolley on the crossing
To demonstrate the slowliness of Zen.
Say ‘bugger off’ to other people’s bossing
And speak my truth to power, now and then.
I won’t install a meshy-dish receiver
And when the nosy neighbours ask me why
I’ll tell them I’m a born-again believer
With other, better ways of seeing sky.
I’ll buy a bit of bargain booze in Aldi,
Drink in the kitchen till I’m off my tits
Then turn the wireless up and give it laldy
Singing along to Webern’s greatest hits.
Your next challenge is to submit a short story in the Gothic style with a topical twist. Please email entries of up to 150 words to email@example.com by midday on 31 October.