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Spectator competition winners: it started with a tweet…

3 February 2019

9:30 AM

3 February 2019

9:30 AM

For the latest challenge you were asked to submit a poem or a short story that begins ‘It started with a tweet…’.

Hats off to Philip Machin for an appropriately pithy submission:

It started with a tweet —
There’s nothing wrong in that —
But, sadly, indiscreet:
It ended with a cat.

Elsewhere, in a varied and engaging entry, there were echoes of Shelley’s skylark, Lear’s owl and Hitchcock’s Birds. The winners below are rewarded with £25 each.

W.J. Webster
It started with a tweet, a joke
at his expense, okay, but just
a quip intended to provoke
a smile or some quick counter-thrust:
instead he opted to deplore
its tone, which others duly liked
not to approve of more and more
until the growing numbers spiked
much hope of coming to a truce
as we were hit on either side
by covert forces now let loose
that could, it seemed, not be denied
the chance to give or take offence
at total strangers’ tweeted words
and make bewildered victims sense
the swooping screeching of The Birds.

D.A. Prince
It started with a tweet, the sort
thumbed out before the brain
could re-engage its should-I?/ought
or common sense complain.

A knee-jerk tweet, a silly spat,
a calling of rude names,
a Trump-ish mindless tit-for-tat
like childhood’s playground games.


A nothing-much from nowhere, he
felt he could do no harm.
Some nose-thumb, up-yours repartee;
nothing to cause alarm.

But one retweet goes far and wide;
a squeak becomes a roar.
He never meant it, multiplied,
to start a global war.

Basil Ransome-Davies
It started with a tweet, as so much does.
Dip one toe in the maelstrom and you’re lost.
It ended with disaster and the fuzz.
I have the viewpoint of the double-crossed.

One tweet led to another, then we dined.
I ordered tournedos, she chose the carp.
I got a vivid preview of her mind.
The meat was boot-sole but the wit was sharp.

The next move was a foray to Marseille.
We shot the moon on wicked, grown-up fun.
I woke thick-headed on the final day.
My wallet, phone and passport were long gone.

My pride gave up the ghost where Rimbaud had.
My ego said I should have known the score.
The gendarmes hid their smiles, it was so sad.
One thing is certain. I shall tweet no more.

David Mackie
It started with a tweet he read — another paradigm of idiocy. The subjugated masses, Major Volkmann reasoned, had already seen their messaging allowance reduced to 140 characters. Curiously, they had not needed to be bullied or cajoled into accepting such constraints. Indeed, they seemed actually to prefer these half-witted blurtings of intemperate opinion to intelligent dialogue. But then… why not go a step further? Below a certain word limit, in this post-apocalyptic online society, effective political resistance could scarcely be co-ordinated. Reduce the maximum again, and it would become impossible even to articulate coherent opposition to the regime. With dissidence rendered incommunicable, the Party’s authority would be absolute and permanent. And whoever devised the plan would surely receive the highest honours …Excitedly, Volkmann turned to his keyboard. ‘Dear Leader,’ he wrote, ‘I have an idea which may intere…’ — only to be stopped short by the on-screen message: ‘Character limit exceeded.’

Bill Greenwell
It started with a tweet,
the chatter of a sparrow, a hint of insurrection,
a monotony of squabbling. In the bush,
some scuffling, a wood-thrush or three, flautists
caught out, testing tiny gatlings,
disturbing the hermits. The jay
screams its arrival; its cousin’s a crow, raucous,
chalk on a board. The wood-pigeon
coos its constant phooey. And now the bittern
boom-booms its horny way
into the avian chorus. The crane plays
a straight raspberry. Louder still,
its Orangina head just waiting to be preened,
building its imaginary ramparts,
here’s the fattening and paralytic burp
of the web-tongued prezza.

Chris O’Carroll
It started with a tweet
Fit to amp the crowd’s heartbeat,
And every hungry street
Could feel the fear.

We could feel it as a thrill,
As a bone-and-marrow chill,
We could feel the urge to kill
Again this year.

He says he’s really smart
And his deals are quite the art.
He has wisdom to impart,
So lend an ear.

It comes as no surprise
When he doses us with lies.
Maybe one day he’ll act wise
And disappear.

Your next challenge is to submit a poem about the struggle of writing a poem (maximum 16 lines). Please email entries to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 13 February.


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