In Competition No. 3175 you were invited to submit a prequel to a well-known poem.
C. Paul Evans’s opening to a prequel to the nation’s favourite poem caught my eye:
“My publishers had telephoned to askFor something inspirational and spiffy:I told them I would think about the task,But mentioned I was feeling somewhat iffy…
As did Bill Greenwell’s Stevie Smith:
“Nobody saw him, the dry man,But there he lay frowning:Life was much much harder than he thought,Not-bathing but browning.
Other standout performers, in a stellar entry, were Jayne Osborn, Iain Morley, Chris Ray, Nick MacKinnon, Max Gutmann, Robin Helweg-Larsen, G.N. Crockford and M.F. Shardlow. The winners, led by Alex Steelsmith’s ‘This Be The Prequel’, net £25.
“They bring you up, your mum and dad,To honour them, no matter what.You learn that you, not they, are bad,And ought to keep your cakehole shut.And so I did, and all seemed well,Except for ulcers, nervous tics,Depression, allergies from hellAnd phobias no drug could fix.And then one day a clever shrinkConvinced me that I’d spent my youthRepressing what I feared to think,Unconscious of the awful truth.I learned to punch a pillow, ventMy rage in vulgar terms and curseThe predecessors I resent.While on the couch, I wrote a verse.Alex Steelsmith (‘This Be The Verse’)
“I met a traveller from an antique landWho said — ‘There’s little for a traveller there,Mere ruins and a wilderness of sand,Fragments of statues, scattered everywhereLike broken toys by giants roughly flung,As if impatient with their desert state,Among the pye-dogs and the camel dung,Long outworn as the names they celebrate.Such abject remnants, mired in dust and grime,Can never stir the spirit or evinceFancies that seek a higher form in rhyme,Dead as they are, uncounted centuries since.’So spake my interlocutor, and I,Half-stifled by his vehement hot breath,Valued his sentiments but questioned whyMy verse should not include decay and death.Basil Ransome-Davies (‘Ozymandias’)
“Go Madam, go! Desire hath long since fled,Too long it takes to get thee into bed.’Tis wearying to wait and watch thee wrestWith complex vestments just to get undressed.A thousand miles or more a man might pace’Ere thou thy spangled breastplate could unlaceAnd none, I trow, would be content to stayWhile you with all these undergarments play.‘Disrobe!’ I bade thee, ‘Shed thy girdle first.’Yet even that request now seemeth cursed,For that alone, by taking such an age,Did stir in me a sense of rising rage;Small wonder that I fidget so and fretWhile still thou wearest gown and coronet.Go madam, go! ’Tis clearly not to beThat thee, uncovered, shall I ever see.Alan Millard (‘To His Mistress Going to Bed’)
“I remember, I rememberMuch less, as time goes by,Increasingly I find that I’mForgetting when and why.Instructions that are given meI struggle to retain,The budgie’s in the fridge — I fearI’ve lost the plot again.I remember, I rememberBriefly, then it’s flown,The list of things I have to do —Yet, strangely, I can ownThat, though I seldom can recallWhat happened yesterday,Those childhood memories remain,They’ll never go away.Sylvia Fairley (‘I Remember, I Remember’)
“While I’m alive, my dearest,Be with me if thou wilt,Or shun me if thou wilt not.In either case, no guilt.Be the green grass we tread onAnd blue sky overheadVistas we share togetherOr know apart instead.I shall express no preference,I shall make no demands,I shall not dictate whether weWalk solo or link hands.And as we make our plans to fillThe days until we’re dead,Haply thou art blasé like me,Or haply care instead.Chris O’Carroll (‘When I am dead, my dearest’)
“Miss E. Skinner-Gruel, Miss E. Skinner-Gruel,Angled and bangled by modernist school,What dull conversation we shared after lunch:Some fellow called Stringberg, some cove who’s called Munch.Oh grey Bloomsbury evenings and dreary weekends,The labourers beer, and the sneers of your friends,I’m Dulwich and Sandhurst and Prince of Wales’ Own,So why, when I open my mouth, do they groan?Miss Eve Skinner-Gruel, Miss Eve Skinner-Gruel,My lust for your pallor is starting to cool,Love is conceptually bourgeois you plead,But that’s little relief to a soldier in need.Nick Syrett (‘The Subaltern’s Love Song’)
No. 3178: what the dickens
You are invited to submit an extract from a Dickensian novel based around the name of someone in political life. Please email entries of up to 150 words to email@example.com by midday on 2 December.