Poet’s choice

19 April 2014

In Competition No. 2843 you were given a list of poets’ surnames — motion, bridges, wilde, gray, cope, hood, burns and browning — and asked to incorporate them into a… Read more


12 April 2014

In Competition 2842 you were invited to compose the most off-putting book blurb that you could muster. There’s just space to say that I don’t think I’ll be rushing out… Read more

Vice verse

5 April 2014

In Competition 2841 you were invited to paint an amusing portrait in verse of the vice and folly of humankind. It was William Congreve who wrote that it is the… Read more

De haut en bas

29 March 2014

In Competition 2840 you were invited to provide an extract from the autobiography of a modern-day celebrity, ghostwritten by a literary great. Where would Jordan’s literary ambitions have been without… Read more

Art of darkness

22 March 2014

In Competition 2839 you were invited to submit a poem about the darker side of spring. There were references in the entry to Larkin, who could always be relied on… Read more


15 March 2014

In Competition 2838 you were invited to submit a short story entitled Fifty Shades of whatever you chose. It was a bit of a mixed bag this week but I… Read more

Reunion blues

8 March 2014

In Competition 2837 you were invited to submit a poem on the horrors of a reunion dinner. In days gone by, the allure of school reunions lay in the opportunity… Read more

All together now

1 March 2014

In Competition 2836 you were invited to coin collective nouns for the following: tweeters, hackers, hoodies, WAGS, environmentalists, bankers, MPs and contrarians. This was by far the most popular competition… Read more

Lonely hearts

22 February 2014

In Competition 2835 you were invited to submit a profile for an online dating website for a well-known politician, living or dead. Unlucky loser John Samson’s Oliver Cromwell might, I… Read more

Hard-boiled Blyton

15 February 2014

In Competition 2834 you were invited to submit an extract from a classic of children’s literature rewritten in the style of hard-boiled crime fiction. My word, you were good this… Read more

Dear diary

8 February 2014

In Competition 2833 you were invited to submit an extract from the adolescent diary of a well-known public figure, living or dead. There wasn’t much between you this week and… Read more

Burns Night address

1 February 2014

In Competition 2832 you were invited to compose an address to an item of food. The assignment was inspired by Burns’s ‘Address to a Haggis’, but you were not obliged… Read more

Essence of…

23 January 2014

In Competition 2832 you were invited to compose what might be a quintessential opening paragraph from the pen of either Graham Greene, Frank Kafka, Jane Austen or Tolkien. It was… Read more

Talking shop

18 January 2014

In Competition 2830 you were invited to choose, from different authors, two characters who have the same job or position and give an excerpt of not more than 150 words… Read more

Culture shock?

11 January 2014

In Competition 2829 you were invited to imagine what Philip Larkin might have made of the news that Hull has been anointed 2017’s City of Culture. Despite its unpromising image,… Read more

That was the year that was

4 January 2014

In Competition 2828 you were invited to submit a retrospective verse commentary on 2013. Reasons to be cheerful are, apparently, somewhat thin on the ground. Alanna Blake’s opening couplet captures… Read more

Dear Santa

14 December 2013

In Competition 2827 you were invited to submit a Christmas list, in verse, in the style of the poet of your choice.   This challenge called on you not only… Read more

Winter’s tale

7 December 2013

In Competition 2826 you were invited to submit nonsense verse on a wintry theme. The line between sense and nonsense is a blurred one; certainly Carroll’s crazy world has a… Read more

Picture this

30 November 2013

In Competition 2825 you were invited to supply a poem for a well-known painting of your choice. The poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti was the inspiration behind this challenge.… Read more

Sporting double

23 November 2013

In Competition 2824 you were invited to submit double clerihews about a well-known sporting figure past or present.   The clerihew was invented by Edmund  Clerihew Bentley as a bored… Read more

Pet project

16 November 2013

In Competition 2823 you were invited to submit a school essay or poem written at the age of eight by a well-known person, living or dead, entitled ‘My Pet’ .… Read more

Shakespeare does Dallas

9 November 2013

In Competition 2822 you were invited to submit an extract from a scene from a contemporary soap opera (television or radio) as Shakespeare might have written it. The idea of… Read more


2 November 2013

In Competition 2821 you were invited to supply a poem that provides instruction or useful information. This challenge was, of course, a nod to Virgil, whose Georgics, a didactic poem… Read more


26 October 2013

In Competition 2820 you were invited to supply a postscript to any well-known novel.   This challenge was suggested by a reader who drew my attention to Barbara Hardy’s neo-Victorian… Read more

Buttoned up or open neck?

19 October 2013

In Competition 2819 you were invited to write a poem either in free verse mocking rhymed, metrical verse or in conventional verse mocking free verse.   Auden was no fan… Read more