Competition

2021 in sonnets

22 January 2022

9:00 AM

22 January 2022

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 3232, you were invited to retell a news story from the past year in sonnet form. An excellent entry this week included submissions ranging far and wide, from Harry Patch and the Everly Brothers to Alaskan walruses and Jeff Bezos’s penis. Commendations to Josephine Boyle, C. Paul Evans, Dorothy Pope, R.M. Goddard, Douglas Hall and Martin Elster, and £20 each to those printed below.

For roofer Charlie Perry and his mates
It was a time of Strongbow and cocaine,
The chance to nullify decades of pain
By getting early into altered states
Then watching, with the pride that elevates,
As English football claimed a cup again.
In an uplifting, patriotic vein
They crashed and bunged their way through Wembley’s gates.
Anarchy in the UK? This was it —
A zonked-out yahoo mob rampaging free,
The unleashed Id, the tribe that lost its head.
A bottom was exposed, a flare was lit.
That, and a shootout loss to Italy,
Became England’s epitome. ’Nuff said.
Basil Ransome-Davies

Your green bins brim with cardboard: watch it soften,
Since impulse-buying’s never out of date —
A click, a new arrival. More than often,
They’ll overflow, while in West Texas waits
The profiteer who crammed your waste with packing.
A most suspicious bulge has filled his pockets.
His bank accounts are full. They’re almost cracking;
And now he’s used your wallet on some rockets.

Your Christmas gifts have furnished him a perq:
The chance to charge the rich ten million quid.
Today he’s boldly sent up Captain Kirk,
Who wept to be in space (oh yes he did!).
Around the pad, the rich build airy castles,
While at your door, the driver stands with parcels.
Bill Greenwell

This rock remembers curvature of clay
That cradled him beneath a fragrant pine.
The sunset dipped her paintbrush in the bay
And tinted rivers red with evening wine.

The centuries have smoothed his granite face
And rounded razored edges of his tongue.
Upheaved, he wakes within a mob’s embrace —
Marauders jeer that traitors must be hung.

When venom burns their veins and blinds their eyes,
The riots and the rage inebriate
And fuel thirst for liquor laced with lies.
The hands that hurl the rocks are hard with hate.

But stones that broke the water left no shard —
The ripples stilled, and glass remained unmarred.
Elizabeth Spencer Spragins

If COVID be the antidote of love —
To touch a sin; to kiss, a very crime,
Here’s two, the truth of such would haply prove,
Defiant as my mock-antique eye-rhyme.
That HANCOCK, gloomy face of Covid gloom
Might fall for Gina — just like other blokes —
And make us cry ‘For Pete’s sake, get a room!’
Is all too typical of Cupid’s jokes.
That COLADANGELO should likewise fall
For someone who’s, quite frankly, rather puny,
When OLIVER’s so rich and fit and tall,
Is strange; but then, they’d met before at Uni.
The moral is: don’t trust those PPEs.
Their love can grow and dwindle by degrees.
Frank Upton

I’m Emma Raducanu… MBE!
(Like, totally hush-hush, till New Year’s Day),
Teenage sensation? SPOTY? OMG!
That’s literally awesome! Whoa, no way!
The letter from the Palace said ER —
The same initials, right? How spooky’s that?
The Queen’s like ‘What do you do?’ I’m like ‘Duh?’
Then she’s like ‘Do you bowl or do you bat?’
So weirded-out at Wimbledon — big yikes!
Then slayed it at the US Open — whoa!
My Instagram account? A million likes!
Chilling at the Met with cool J Lo
And Lewis Hamilton? Yay LOL!
Like, Year Thirteen are totally well jel.
David Silverman

The deal was sealed when Jeff revealed his plan;
The Amazon phenomenon was primed
To blast off soon, and so in June he ran
His press release, a masterpiece well timed.

The SpaceX dude could only brood. He knew
He couldn’t chase the Bezos pace to space;
In such a span of time no man could do
What must be done, so Jeff had won the race.

But then — behold! — a flash of gold, a burst
Of light! It’s Branson, gallant handsome knight,
Sir Lancelot the astronaut — the first
Tycoon to clear the stratosphere in flight!

His rocket’s thrust left Jeff nonplussed and shocked.
A cocky scheme, at times, can seem half-cocked.
Alex Steelsmith

I met a traveller from an antique land
who said — ‘A vast and green container ship
stands in the desert, bows wedged in the sand.
A sidewind caught it broadside on its trip
from Tanjung Pelepas to Rotterdam
and spun it like a Pooh stick in a race,
so that to north and south a traffic jam
of vital trade is visible from space.
And words are stencilled on its derrière:
EVER GIVEN — PANAMA. Some say
A SHAG LIKE SUEZ? might be added there.
Nothing beside can pass. Round the dismay
of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
the lone and level sands stretch far away.’
Nick MacKinnon

No. 3235: a bit previous

You are invited to invent a prequel to a well-known work of literature (e.g. The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea or Dante’s ‘Smouldering Rag’) and supply an extract from it. Please email entries of up to 16 lines or 150 words to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 2 February.

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