Competition

Spectator competition winners: the pleasures of bad poetry

26 September 2020

9:00 AM

26 September 2020

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 3167 you were invited to submit a rhymed poem that is leadenly prosaic in tone and content.

When it comes to the joys of bad poetry, McGonagall tends to steal the show. But I also have a soft spot for Amanda McKittrick Ros, whose novels — and verse — provide passages of inadvertent hilarity to rival the worst of Bulwer Lytton (eyes are described as ‘globes of glare’; alcohol is the ‘powerful monster of mangled might’).


An honourable mention goes to George Simmers for his Wordsworthian makeover — ‘I don’t think anywhere could be more pleasant!/ Frankly, you’d have to be boring to pass by…’ — and to Richard Spencer and Janey Wilks. The winners earn £30 each.

The fields behind my cottage stretch
Like rectangles of green
Where grow such plants as chard and vetch
To make a vivid scene.
 
I muse upon it hour by hour,
Such healthy food for thought.
Not by the classroom but the power
Of Nature we are taught.
 
Thus reasoning, I understand
That life’s not just for mirth.
We must be moral agents and
Respect all life on Earth.
 
We sit so often silently
Though feeling far from flat,
Two souls in perfect peace, just me
And Leopold, my cat.
Basil Ransome-Davies

I telephoned the surgery to ask for an appointment
Though not to get more prostate pills or haemorrhoidal ointment
But being keen to guard against the seasonal infection
I thought it best to book up for my annual flu injection.
 
The queue was very long, so long that some stood in the street
And wondered if the drizzly rain might soon turn into sleet,
But while they stood two feet apart in dull and chilly weather
They made the best of things and said, ‘We’re all in this together.’
 
Inside the posters on the wall were interesting to view,
They showed you things that some might catch and, if so, what to do.
The treatment when I reached the nurse was really slick and quick,
No more than just a little scratch or tiny, painless prick.
 
It’s always good to go each year and, after it’s been done
On looking back, I’d have to say I think it’s rather fun,
It makes a change from sitting in and brings a little cheer
To brighten up October days, that flu jab, once a year.
Alan Millard

I should have taken that turn at South Bend.
The wipers wave, I drive a few more feet;
fume, fume about the roadworks without end.
We crawl and wait, and watch the wait extend,
because we have no choice, glued to each seat,
I should have taken that turn at South Bend.
The radio’s a mumbling, static blend,
we’re prisoners locked in lanes of tired defeat,
fume, fume about the roadworks without end.
Abandon hope of merging here, my friend,
we’ve hardly moved for hours; turn up the heat.
I should have taken that turn at South Bend.
We sit, the grim-lipped drivers who pretend
we’ll find an exit to a sunlit street,
Fume, fume about the roadworks without end.
I should have taken that turn at South Bend
Janine Beacham

I – M – H – O, as I believe they say today
(Though they don’t all agree on what the H stands for —
In my considered view it’s ‘humble’); anyway,
As I began to say a little while before,
I personally think (though others disagree —
Apparently they take a somewhat different view —
In which case it is clear, or so it seems to me,
(Not wishing to be rude) they haven’t got a clue;
I just don’t think that they have really proved their case,
While, on the other hand, the views that I profess
Are obviously right; I’ll now cut to the chase
And come right to the point: it’s anybody’s guess
If theirs are genuine; I think, for what it’s worth
(Another well-known phrase that some abbreviate)
That I just cannot see how anyone on earth
Could share these views of theirs; let me reiterate…
Nicholas Hodgson

I bought a pair of boots today,
they’re made in Italy;
size nine in Britain, ten US,
in Europe forty-three.
 
They’re patent leather, shiny black,
lace up about the shin;
at first I’ll walk short distances
until I’ve worn them in.
 
They cost a lot, they were not cheap,
a hundred sterling pounds;
I’ll wear them strolling England’s hills
and stately manor grounds.
 
But if they rub, or chafe, or cause
some blisters on my feet,
I’ll get my money back upon
presenting my receipt.
Paul Freeman

No. 3170: letter of the law

‘Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,’ according to Shelley, so let’s have a well-known poet writing their own law in verse. Please email up to 16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 7 October.

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