In Competition No. 3071 you were invited to supply a demotivational poem.
This was your opportunity to come up with a bracing antidote to the world-view peddled by an eye-wateringly lucrative self-help industry that feeds on a mix of insecurity and the aspirational narcissism du jour.
You came at the challenge from various angles, but the opening to Tracy Davidson’s entry speaks for many:
It doesn’t matter what you do in life,
It’s just a constant loop of pointless shite.
Honourable mentions go to Adrian Fry’s paean to the power of no and to Douglas G. Brown’s 21st-century spin on Longfellow’s ‘Psalm of Life’. The winners, printed below, earn £25 each.
When you are feeling down, be sure
That worse is yet to come,}
The most that humans can endure
Is bound to come to some
Which could be you, so should you be
Uplifted for a minute,
Just dig a hole, six foot by three,
Jump in and lie down in it.
The cloud that’s hanging over you
Has got no silver lining,
You know that you are overdue
For trouble, and resigning
Yourself to misery is best —
Accept that life is crappy.
At least you never will be stressed
With trying to be happy.
Every day is Monday morning.
Don’t expect completion, ever,
Only hopes that die aborning,
Only more futile endeavour.
Entropy is our condition,
Alienation just the same.
Knowledge, principles, ambition?
Counters in a pointless game.
Why speak the words that have been spoken?
Language is at best inane.
Why repair the thing that’s broken?
Broken it will be again.
Everywhere it’s always raining,
To the grave like lice we crawl,
Truest poetry most feigning.
Bollocks is the sum of all.
Success is never guaranteed,
Says Phil, my friendly lifestyle coach.
So if at first I don’t succeed,
I just give up — this new approach
Has made me less depressed, says Phil.
Now every time I pay his bill,
I compliment my mentor’s skill,
And kid myself it’s what I need…
When any challenge comes along
I try it once, and hope to fail.
Believing failure makes me strong,
I laugh… But here’s a sorry tale,
As pitiful as you may read:
My bank account begins to bleed
All thanks to Phil’s felonious creed —
Too late I realise I’m wrong!
Sure, I guess, you could go out
and climb that mountain peak,
and if you trained for years, perhaps
you’d reach the goal you seek,
but wouldn’t you enjoy it more
to just stay in your chair?
After all, though you could win,
no one but you would care.
You’d get a trophy for your shelf,
a cheap and chintzy prize,
and everyone you’d show it to
would yawn and roll their eyes.
So take a seat and pour a drink.
There’s nothing you need prove
Turn the telly on. Relax.
There is no need to move.
The mission statement’s words are there
To make it look as if we care.
The principles we hold are just
The ones our PR firm discussed.
Great teamwork helps us win the game —
Or gives you someone else to blame.
Do, please, critique the things we do
(Graffiti pads are in the loo.)
Promotion is the holy grail
That spurs you on until you fail.
The job that matches all your skills
Will be the one some idiot fills.
It’s your good work and not the rotten
That soon enough will be forgotten.
You’re worth no more than morning dew;
Your life’s all dreams that don’t come true.
However hard you try, success
Belongs to someone else, not you.
You take two steps along the track
And then you must take three steps back;
When failure comes don’t be surprised
That Fate sought out the thing you lack.
And don’t attempt to change your lot
To gain more wealth than you have got.
You’ll simply give what you possess
To others with a better plot.
You cannot win, so never try.
Arrive, and find the spring is dry.
But if you’re lucky, you may glimpse
What might have been, before you die.
No. 3074: we’re scamming
You are invited to submit a scam letter ghostwritten by a well-known author, living or dead (please specify). Please email (where possible) entries of up to 150 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 7 November.