Lucy Vickery

Back-to-front sonnet

Text settings

In Competition No. 3068 you were invited to provide a sonnet in reverse, using as your model Rupert Brooke’s ‘Sonnet Reversed’, which turns upside-down both the form — it begins on the rhyming couplet — and the Petrarchan concept of idealised love, starting on a romantic high but ending in prosaic banality.

This challenge produced a delightfully varied and engaging entry. Honourable mentions go to Basil Ransome-Davies, Jennifer Pearson, David Shields, George Simmers and Philip Roe. The winners, printed below, are rewarded with £20 each.

Six days to build the Cosmos! I was hot!

With stars and planets, galaxies, the lot —

And life! Amoebae, microbes, dinosaurs,

Crustaceans, fish… and so on down the line.

I worked like hell to finish all my chores,

And when I looked around, it all seemed fine.

But then I started doubting what I’d done;

My motives seemed both frivolous and vague.

Creating cancer — was it just for fun?

For My sake! Why invent bubonic plague,

Or things like syphilis and leprosy?

So much that’s bad, so many chances missed…

Increasingly, I don’t believe in Me;

Today, I’m just another atheist.

Brian Allgar


Art soared to heights as high as man could go

When David rose from Michelangelo.

A fractured piece of marble, an idea,

And genius fingers made the marble live.

He caused a spark from heaven to appear

Charging his work with all he had to give,

And thus his Adam stretched a hand to God

In Sistine pomp and splendour. Such was art.

But nowadays whatever strikes as odd:

Some dung, some flies, the fragrance of a fart,

Whatever shocks is worth a Turder prize.

The days of careful craftsmanship are dead;

A mess is viewed with mad, myopic eyes

And modern art stinks in its unmade bed.

Max Ross


Her glittering eyes reveal an inner fire

And tautened limbs are trembling with desire.

It’s best to tie her up when she’s like that

Although she whimpers, begging to be free.

She must have seen a rabbit or a rat

And so I slip her lead around a tree

As otherwise she’d plunge into the mound

Of garden rubbish that I’m trying to burn

With kindling sticks and The Spectator (found

In the recycling bin). My thoughts now turn

To what we’ll drink with lamb — perhaps a Rhône.

They’re interrupted by an urgent yelling.

The dog barks too. I’m wanted on the phone

About an old Toyota that I’m selling.

Hugh King


All sour, lips a-gogo, cocking snooks,

Bad hair-day boys — imagine shampooed stooks:

Ten raw-sex hits, with crash of brash guitar,

Before the boys move into psychedelia,

And make some albums not quite up to par —Distressing to the patron saint, Cecilia.

One’s lost to drugs, the others test the brink,

The riffs grow tame, the singer over-camps,

The lyrics trudge, the sound is on the blink,

Dulled by the higher settings on the amps.

As tabloid fodder, all of them are seedy,

Their music growing oh so orthodox.

Arise, Sir Mick. Great-grandad, you grow tweedy,

While Keef’s bandana smells of ageing socks.

Bill Greenwell


The speed with which they coupled was obscene,

Their sexual gyrations filled the screen.

The image was in black and white, although

The action was red-hot, the film was blue —

But then the brief encounter seemed to slow,

We saw them pulling on their clothes, they drew

Apart from one another. Now I think,

I can’t recall who conjured up the stunt,

Or was the apparatus on the blink?

I know we saw the film from back to front,

Time’s Arrow, if you like, and that was how

The couple that at first performed with zest

And not a stitch of clothing on them, now

Were sitting side by side and fully dressed.

Sylvia Fairley


Divine is she? — Or from another time?

O brave new world, with creatures so sublime!

Could anything in nature, time and space

Transport me to such ecstasy, such bliss?

Or is she not of this, our human race,

Revealing an enchantment such as this?

Whence comes this power she holds over me?

How come time stops whenever she is near?

Or is she from another galaxy?

Does Earthly physics not apply to her?

Regenerating — she is a survivor!

When will I see her eerie azure light,

Her Tardis and her sonic new screwdriver?=

On BBC One, every Sunday night!

David Silverman


It came, great news, the long-awaited call:

Acceptance! I’d been chosen after all.

The perfect situation this for me

Where I could utilise my expertise;

The ropes were dull to learn but I could see

A future full of promise I would seize.

The working hours were long but duly filled

With tasks that soon became my new routine.

I wondered sometimes, was I overskilled?

My workmates grew less matey than they’d been.

The long commute began to take its toll,

Prospective bonuses did not appear.

I’ve had to settle for a lowly goal:

To stick it out till I’m the oldest here.

Alanna Blake

No. 3071: accentuate the negative

You have been challenged in the past to supply an example of the kind of treacly inspirational poetry that adorns the office walls of life coaches and might be quoted by motivational speakers. This time around let’s have demotivational poems (check out the website for inspiration). Please email (wherever possible) entries of up to 16 lines to by midday on 17 October.