Lucy Vickery

Brief lives

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In Competition No. 3072 you were invited to supply a short verse biography of a well-known figure from history.

In a commendable entry, notables long gone — Diotisalvi, Vercingetorix the Gaul, Dr Dee — rubbed shoulders with those still very much with us — Anthony Weiner, Donald Trump, Boris Johnson. There were borrowings from Edward Lear and Lennon and McCartney (‘BoJo was a clown who thought he was a leader/ Made it to King Charles Street too…’) as well as echoes of Ogden Nash.

An honourable mention goes to Brian Allgar for getting into the Halloween spirit with his life of Vlad the impaler. On equally eye-catching form were D.A. Prince, Sylvia Fairley, Bill Greenwell, Douglas G. Brown and W.J. Webster, who submitted a concrete poem. But the prizes go to the winners printed below — a varied bunch who are rewarded with £25 each.

How unpleasant to meet Mr Pound

With his motley assortment of views —

Some, about verse, not unsound,

Others toxic, e.g., about Jews.

Both Image and Vortex were isms

He championed as new and exciting.

If Modernists had catechisms,

It’s Ezra’s words they’d be reciting.

In his youth he looked Three Musketeerish,

Though he swashed less and buckled more later.

In the war he waxed Fascist and sneerish.

His native land called him a traitor.

His Cantos is much praised but nearly

Unread outside graduate school.

His career demonstrates all too clearly

That a genius can be a damn fool.

Chris O’Carroll

Old Adam was a gardener

And walked upon his lawns

But Lilith grew the eglantine

And battled with the thorns.

Old Adam was a gardener

And strode among his trees

But Lilith trimmed the terminals

And tended to the bees.

Old Adam was a gardener

And played the king therein

But Lilith made the compost heap

And let the rot begin.

Old Adam was a gardener

And slumbered in the sun

But Lilith fed the apple tree

By which he was undone.

Ann Drysdale

He was immune to discipline,

As quarrelsome as Punch,

At war with his immediate kin

And strictly out to lunch.

Through marriage to a teenage bride

His loneliness was purged

Too briefly. When Virginia died,

His melancholia surged.

The Godfather of gothic crime,

He never stood a chance,

A writer born before his time

First valued most in France.

You’ll know that he was truly great

If ever you have read him,

But Poe, a tragic reprobate,

Bit every hand that fed him.

Basil Ransome-Davies

Not hardy, but a weakling born,

Ay, weakling born,

Who lived a life forlorn and torn

To shreds by woes and strife:

Two marriages and both a curse

The first a pain, the second worse,

Small wonder that, in doleful verse,

He rued his troubled life.

Confessed as one ‘who no heart hath’,

Ay, ‘no heart hath’,

Who trod the cheerless Egdon path

Beset by wind and rain,

Such words were uttered not in jest,

For now, long severed from his breast,

His heart twixt both wives lies at rest

Freed finally from pain.

Alan Millard

Holily, Galilee:

Jesus of Nazareth:

Daddy’s a Deity;

Born in a shed.


Lucifer’s nemesis,


Rose from the dead.

Empirical miracles:

Raising of Lazarus,

Walking on water and

Water to wine.

Dishes of fishes and

Dissing of riches


Jeez was divine.

David Silverman


Jorge Bergoglio,

On a career path with

Quite a steep slope,


Worked as a janitor,

Then as a bouncer, and

Then as the Pope.

Max Gutmann

No. 3075: trumpian verse

Last year Canongate published The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump by Rob Sears. You are invited to compose submissions of up to 16 lines for volume II. Please email (-wherever possible) entries to by 14 November. A maximum of four entries per competitor, please.