Poetic pitch

7 September 2013

9:00 AM

7 September 2013

9:00 AM

In Competition 2813 you were invited to submit an application in verse, from the poet of your choice, for the position of poet laureate.

There were robust bids from poets who were passed over for the laureateship on account of their questionable politics — Pope, for example, and Milton — as well as from those that made the grade: Betjeman, Hughes, Wordsworth and Nahum Tate all threw their hat in the ring. Other eloquent pleas came from McGonagall, who would surely have challenged Alfred Austin for the crown of worst rhymester, Ogden Nash and Dylan Thomas.

Mae Scanlan, Gerard Benson, Mike Morrison, Sylvia Fairley and Paul Evans were unlucky losers. The winners take £30 each. Alanna Blake earns £35.

I pen these lines to whom it may concern
As, in the line for laurels, ’tis my turn.
I scan man’s foibles and his virtues praise,
Though virtue’s not in fashion nowadays.
A search for Poets of sufficient wit —
Or wisdom to conceal a want of it —
Will not reveal a plethora of such
With aught of Homer’s or great Milton’s touch
To strike the powers that be with sharp-tipp’d pen
And dare to satirise our ‘public men’.
To soar beyond the bounds of envy’s rage
And nicely hit the target on each page
A laureate of honour you should name,
One not too fawning nor too fond of fame.
Compare contestants, put us to the test,
With all your wisdom you must judge me best.
Alanna Blake/Alexander Pope
When you consider how my life is spent
Composing lines on paradise I’ve lost,
You will not wait until my joyless ghost
Flies home before you make it your intent
To grant poor Milton some emolument.
I seek not wealth, only the humble post
Of vates poetarum, not to boast
But to proclaim my talents, heaven-sent.
Then surely out of darkness would come light
To soothe the soul and warmly compensate
For heartaches that attend my loss of sight.
God willing, you will make a good man great
And when his verse on stately things takes flight
He will, at last, no longer stand and wait.
Frank McDonald/Milton
‘You are old, Mr Dodgson,’ Lord Salisbury
‘And you’ve written some tosh about Alice;
What on earth makes you think that you ought to
be named
As the Poet to Buckingham Palace?’
‘In my youth,’ I replied, ‘I was happily lost in
The works of the Laureate Wordsworth.
But now there is talk of appointing old Austin,
Whose poems have scarcely a turd’s worth.
I therefore conceived it would be quite a lark
To emerge from my clerical cloisters.
I’ve written an epic concerning the Snark,
And a heart-rending story of Oysters.
My poetical talents are not to be doubted:
The Jabberwock — what could be gorier?
As Laureate, let poor old Austin be routed —
Choose me for our dear Queen Victoria!’
Brian Allgar/Lewis Carroll
Come, Majesty, appoint me now.
I didn’t mean to libel Slough.
I’m old, benign and middlebrow,
And on my knees.
I’m well brought up. I scan and rhyme.
I find the buildings quite sublime
Of your great-great-grandmother’s time.
Anoint me, please.
I’m dubbed the bard of Metroland,
Nostalgic, comforting and bland,
But I can do the grave and grand;
I have the knack.
My gift is versatile, you see.
I’m everybody’s cup of tea,
A people’s laureate. Let me be
Your humble hack.
Basil Ransome-Davies/Betjeman
Sir William Topaz McGonagall, Knight of the
White Elephant of Burma, applies:
I see in the Dundee Courier that Poets of Great
Britain may forthwith submit an ode
To your committee, to see on whom the title of
Poet Laureate might be bestowed.
Therefore I am writing my application and posting
it without the least delay
To go rapidly across Sir Thomas Bouch’s
wondrous bridge on the silvery Tay.
Her Majesty may have told you that at Balmoral I
presented her with a poem
But sadly on that day the Police Constable told me
she was not at home.
And I have produced verses on many joyous topics
such as Mafeking’s Relief
As well as great tragedies such as the sad Wreck
of the ‘Indian Chief’.
The position advertised offers fifty guineas a year
and a half-butt of sack
Which as a life-long abhorrer of strong drink I
would have to send back.
I should remark also that as a tragedian my voice
is notably strong and loud
Should the occasion arise to recite my works to a
very large crowd.
Thus I submit my humble request to your
Committee’s earnest deliberation
To become the Poetic Voice of the British Empire
and Nation,
Which would not only bring great joy and
satisfaction to me
But would be received enthusiastically here in
Scotland and especially in Dundee.
Shirley Curran


You are invited to submit a short story of up to 150 words with an ingenious twist at the end. Please email entries, wherever possible, to by midday on 18 September.

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