In Competition No. 3053, an assignment prompted by Anthony Horowitz’s reflections on creating female characters for his latest Bond novel, you were invited to provide an extract from a well-known work that might be considered sexist by today’s standards and rework it for the #MeToo age.
Highlights in a thoroughly enjoyable entry included Brian Allgar’s Constance Chatterley instructing Mellors in the importance of foreplay, Paul Freeman’s recasting of Orwell’s antihero as Weinstein Smith and Hugh King addressing the gender stereo-typing in The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
The worthy winners, printed below, earn £20 each.
‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’;
Well, frankly, Will, I’d rather you did NOT.
You’ll find some fanciful poetic way
Of tarting up the message: ‘Babe, you’re hot!’
It will, no doubt, be finely written stuff
By one who’s at the summit of his powers,
But honestly, instead of all that guff,
I’d rather have some chocolates or flowers.
When offering a ‘gift’ of poetry,
The writer tends to have himself in view,
And though ostensibly addressed to me,
I’m sure we’ll find the subject’s really you.
You’ll claim your poetry’s so bloody clever
That, thanks to what you wrote, I’ll live for ever.
Sylvia Smith/Sonnet 18
Humbert, bit of a spent match, a fizzle. His solo, my sogyny. Hum-bert: the tastebuds having a dumb drivel through the pharynx, with a gurgle in the glottis. Hum. Bert. He was Mr. Chips, Chipper for short, standing at the dais with his egg-stained tie. He was M. Humbert in the novel. He was Ho-hum in cavalry twills. But let’s face it, he was old Vladimir Nabokov, rhymes with broke off, in the actual flesh. Did he have an antecedent? Bet your life, bet your life twice over. The beaches were swarming with nymphet-aholics. Just a scrap of skin, of flesh, is all it took. You can always rely on a former swimming champion for a burst of journalese. So hey meine Damen, also Herren, have a goose at what the cherubs flapped their feathers over their eyelids for, flap, flap, flap. Have a good look at this wanker.
And God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and the rib, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
And Adam said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called…’
But the woman pointed out that he had no right to determine how she was called, and suggested that it was about time he went on a gender awareness course.
And she declared strongly: ‘My name shall be Woman, because women are amazing.’
And Adam saw that she was indeed amazing, and that the words she spake were true, and therefore did he ask if he might identify himself as a woman, also.
And God said: ‘That is a nice idea, but don’t forget we need to populate the planet. By the way, I’m gender-neutral.’
That I shall prove to be the villain of my own life is certain, for I was born male. What follows must therefore be my confession, principally of how I inflicted the bondage of marriage upon Dora Spenlow, corrupting my incriminatingly pet-named child-wife sexually and psychologically in furtherance of what my Aunt, Betsey Trotwood, rightly described as the interests of millennially entrenched phallocentric patriarchy and lusts sanctioned by male hegemony. Being a man, I will, at length, seek to apportion blame for my crime upon others, principally Mr Murdstone and his sister, to the consequences of whose abuse of my Mother I find myself to have been a culpably mute witness. As my Aunt will testify, my sister Betsey Trotwood, had she but existed, would never have betrayed womankind so cruelly, nor replicated crimes against it so utterly, her autobiography being in any case worthier of attention.
Adrian Fry/David Copperfield
Come be my partner as you are,
An equal person on a par
With me, and Nature’s grand display
See in your own peculiar way.
We’ll coexist as separate souls
Each with our individual goals,
And, heedless of each other’s views,
Interpret birdsong as we choose.
With parsnips or forget-me-nots
We’ll dig and tend our personal plots
And never for the other’s show
Plant produce neither cares to grow.
We’ll shear no lambs in case they freeze
And wear whatever clothes we please.
If selfish needs you’d not debar,
Come be my partner as you are.
Alan Millard/‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’
Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime,
But even though our time is short
I hope you know I’m not the sort
To rush you, and should you decide
It’s not to be, then I shall bide
And wish you well, and never more
Come knocking on your bedroom door.
Robert Schechter/‘To His Coy Mistress’
A casement high and triple-arched there stood,
But Porphyro knew better than to spy.
He sensed fair Madeleine disrobing, could
If he so wished, her glorious hair descry,
Watch her discard her rich attire, and by
Warm gules of moonlight through the tracery
Her unclothed breasts and privacy survey.
Instead, the vision’s all in his mind’s eye.
Imagined, but un-ogled at, she lay
While Porphyro, no voyeur, looked away.
D.A. Prince/‘The Eve of St Agnes’
No. 3056: Closed shop
You are invited to submit an elegy on the death of the high street. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 4 July.