For the latest competition, you were asked to dream up an imaginary animal that is a hybrid of two existing ones and write a poem about it.
The discovery, some time ago, that the Romans called a giraffe a ‘camelopard’ (and Thomas Hood wrote an ‘Ode to the Cameleopard’) gave me the initial idea for this challenge. I was then reminded of it when reading Spike Milligan’s Book of Milliganimals with my son (remember the Moo-Zebras and the Bald Twit Lion?).
Your fantastic beasts included the Octophant, the kangasheep, the corgiraffe and a couple of llamadillos. It was a difficult comp to judge: there were loads of entries of great merit — many from old hands but plenty from newcomers too.
Commendations to Andrew Marstrand, David Caney, R Dominic Croft and Ian Barker; £25 each to the winners below.
The mismatch of giraffe and jackal
Produced the rather weird girackal.
The top half had a life of ease,
Nibbling at the tops of trees,
But while it chewed its leafy cud
The bottom scavenged guts and blood.
‘It seems,’ the top said, ‘not quite fair
With me up here and you down there.’
‘Not so,’ the answer came, ‘it’s fine —
You play your part and I play mine.
We are a team without an ego,
Wherever you or I go, we go.
Your height means you can watch for trouble,
While I love sorting muck and rubble.’
Which shows there is no need for schisms
In any hybrid organisms.
A cormorant and a May bug met
And, wondering if they should beget,
They pondered then declared, ‘Why not?’
And so it was the pair begot.
When, in due course, a cormay hatched,
Its separate parts were not well matched:
It had a pin-sized head, no beak,
And massive body, black and sleek.
In two minds, neither side agreed
Upon which nutrients to feed,
Or what might make the ideal dish,
One favoured roots, the other, fish.
The moral here is plain as day —
A beast whose name links Cor with May
To work as one was not designed
And always would be misaligned.
It makes no difference what I try
With fluids antifungal,
My room resembles Porky’s sty,
Or teeming, fetid jungle.
The creature that creates this mess
Is halfway jungle swine,
A peccary, say, more or less,
This mucky friend of mine.
It never troubles if it’s blamed
For sins like breaking wind.
It’s too defensive to be shamed;
It curls itself into a ball
For it’s half-armadillo.
The squalor’s not my fault at all —
It’s just my peccadillo.
The crocodove you cannot love
Despite its calming coo.
In water, air or anywhere
Beware: it’s after you!
Its feathers (white) are just the sight
To make a poet pause.
But take your ease and it will seize
Your head between its jaws.
Its calming song has put you wrong
(The reason it’s deployed)
And you’ll be tossed, chewed up and lost,
The creature overjoyed.
So false a friend serves one odd end,
Proving to you and me
How avian guile and reptile smile
Succeed as policy.
I once safaried on the plain
And this is what I saw:
A thing which had a lion’s mane
And roared a lion’s roar
And at its front were lion’s claws,
Its back had cloven feet;
And in between majestic roars
It gave out plaintive bleats
Its mouth was full of fearsome fangs
Which champed upon the grass;
They roamed about in woolly gangs,
A fierce, majestic farce.
The lion — if I’m right — (I am)
Should therefore not lie with the lamb.
There lurks a creature, it is said,
a hybrid monster, half baboon;
an orange pelt adorns its head
to crown the part that’s pure buffoon.
The other half’s a porcine species
with trotters that are undersized —
I’ve heard it drops gold-plated faeces,
We’re going to get them analysed.
The poor beast thinks it’s well-endowed,
long may it bask in that delusion:
in tweets nocturnal, it’s avowed
that’s down to swinish-primate fusion.
Its snouty mouth is small and pursed,
and at the rear, its massive rump
is where it keeps its brain — but first
its name? We call it Donald Trump.
Your next challenge is to submit a fan letter from one well-known person from the field of fact or fiction to another (please specify). Please email entries of up to 150 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 5 June.