The inspiration for the latest challenge — to rearrange the letters of the names of poets (e.g. Basho: ‘has B.O.’) and submit a poem of that title in the style of the poet concerned — was puzzle writer and editor Francis Heaney’s wonderful Holy Tango of Literature, which includes such delights as William Shakespeare’s ‘Is a sperm like a whale?’, Dorothy Parker’s ‘Dreary Hot Pork’ and William Carlos Williams’s ‘I will alarm Islamic owls’.
The anagrammatic titles that caught my eye in a vast and stellar entry included ‘Naughty Nude Wash’ by Wystan Hugh Auden (David Shields) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘Ode to a Large, Slimy Ulcer’ (Max Gutmann). Hats off, too, to Robert Schechter’s one-line ‘Toilets’ by T.S. Eliot: ‘Let us go then, you and I’.
The prizewinners, in what was a hotly contested week, are printed below and snaffle £25 each.
‘Oxen Appareled’ by Alexander Pope/Hugh King
A fool might clothe his muddied cows in silk
And claim they therefore yielded finer milk,
Or give the grunting sow a laundered frock
That he through her might breed a purer stock,
Or throw upon his ox a velvet cloak
To hide the heavy burden of the yoke.
Apparel may proclaim the man not least
When he would use it to disguise his beast.
Such fools as he contrive to win our votes
By dressing brutish aims in lustrous coats.
They politick and scheme, adorning lies
With frills and tassels to distract our eyes.
Yet greater fools are they should they believe
Their trickery will common sense deceive.
‘A Sly Hot Damn’ by Dylan Thomas/Chris O’Carroll
I’ll not go sober to the hall tonight.
Dram-dosed and bardic is the role I play.
They love my readings when I show up tight.
The boozy adulation I excite
Thrives on a ruby sloe gin lurch and sway.
Ovations swell when I’m not sober quite.
Roll up, roll up to hear a lush recite
Lush dingle-singing lyrics to convey
A barley-heightened measure of delight.
With eyes raw red where sober eyes show white,
Atwinkle both cherubic and risqué,
I am no flesh-denying anchorite.
Whisky’s warm glow fuels readings that ignite
Green hill-high thrills and puritan dismay.
A toast to tipsy verse-roused appetite!
‘Thank Jose’ by John Keats/David Silverman
O what can ail thee, that thou look’st so wan,
So haggard and so palely loitering?
Forlorn art thou and sorely woe-begone
In love with easeful death, no song to sing?
Much have I travelled in the realms of goals
And many goodly matches have I seen,
But now alas — most cursed am I of souls
And most in need of blushful Hippocrene.
For drowsy numbness now doth plague my sense;
Of goalless draws my heart has had its fill,
Of every week a ten-men packed defence
And every week we’re lucky to score nil.
And that is why I sojourn here all day
A curséd wretch: for this I thank José.
‘I’m Leery, Jock’ by Joyce Kilmer/Robert Schechter
I think that I shall own a pair
Of men’s athletic underwear.
A pair whose cotton cup is prest
Against my… well, you may have guessed.
A pair to keep my privates safe.
A pair that will not itch or chafe.
A pair with which I may pretend
My testicles do not descend.
It seems to me I could look hot in
This gift of God, supportive cotton.
‘Do Hasty Harm’ by Thomas Hardy/Martin Elster
A voice arose among the melting
crystals on the boughs —
an aged feline that was belting
out great sad meows.
He had good cause for moaning so,
for he could not climb down
to the mucky slush and yellow snow
that overspread the town.
What was he doing on that tree,
not being crow or thrush?
He carolled in a sour key.
I wanted him to hush.
Leaning upon the coppice gate
in the weakening eye of day,
I aimed my shotgun at him straight
and let the pellets spray.
‘Methane Job, NJ’ by John Betjeman/Nick MacKinnon
Come bombs and fall on Methane Job!
The Mayor is a disgusting slob
who sends our taxes to the mob
and keeps a whore.
But spare our boys, dear Lord, and grant
your blessing on the methane plant
and let its smokestacks still enchant
the Jersey Shore.
Destroy the evil men who pack
the chickens fried in Chicken Shack
and make the river Hackensack
a chlorine dump.
And cull the gentrifying ranks
of traders in investment banks
who daily offer up their thanks
to Donald Trump.
You are invited to submit a poem entitled ‘Twas the Night before Brexit’. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 9 December. The shorter-than-usual deadline is because of seasonal production schedules.