In Competition No. 2873 you were invited to submit a poem in praise or dispraise of a well-known building.
It was a strong entry this week and Alanna Blake, Philip Roe, Basil Ransome-Davies and W.J. Webster were unlucky losers. Frank McDonald took me at my word and submitted an actual concrete poem, which made it into the winning line-up. His fellow victors take £25 each and this week’s bonus fiver goes to Brian Allgar for a double dactyl that would have pleased Guy de Maupassant. Maupassant hated the Eiffel Tower — ‘this tall, skinny pyramid of iron ladders, this giant and disgraceful skeleton’ — so much that he often sought refuge from it by eating lunch in its restaurant, the only place he couldn’t see it from.
Eiffel erected a
Skyful of girders that’s
French as a bean.
Boastful, priapic, and
Tourist or resident,
If you’re like me, and you
Can’t stand the sight of this
Climb to the top — it’s the
One place in Paris where
Cannot be seen.
I met a chap the other night
Who wore his vest outside his shirt;
I met his sister. She was tight.
She wore her drawers outside her skirt.
And they reminded me of you,
Your strange, external service pipes,
Your architecture all askew —
So, one of the bohemian types,
Was it, conjured your design? How dull!
One of nature’s foolish bodgers,
Who wore his brains outside his skull?
I should have known it. Richard Rogers.
Your Quadro-tubes, from blue to red,
Would make a toddler flush with pride:
They hide a cuboid, drab and dead.
Don’t start me on the art inside.
An armadillo without arms or legs;
A rugby ball too tall and much too wide;
In part thou art a goose’s golden egg
Except with folk not yolk on your inside.
Thou hast been slated in so many ways;
Thou hast been rated great but also not;
The poem on your front lights up our days
But oh! That crazy, curvy shape thou’st got.
This capital city is very young,
And does not know itself so well as yet:
It tries on shapes like dresses just for fun,
Sometimes they fit, but others we regret.
Like this globule, gargantuan and gold,
An Easter egg made from a giant’s mould.
O Leaning Tower
what mystic power
permits your imperfection?
by small degrees
you’ve flirted with destruction.
Though dukes have gone,
you still abide;
you wobble on,
your city’s pride.
Now they have fixed
your shaky bricks
long may you lean in Pisa.
Once there was air — untroubled, wind-swept, free —
where now this tower stands blocking the view
of sky and emptiness, a travesty
of progress as warped, brittle and askew.
The cutting edge of difference: there’s us,
earthbound and plodding, crammed in streets and crowds,
and them, the glossy Shard-ees, glorious,
high in unshadowed rapture in the clouds.
A sky-high dazzle, twizzle-stick of glass,
all scintillation and loud glittering;
it talks like money, has no sense of farce.
We know it as a higher class of bling.
It’s not all bad. Some days thick mist casts doubt
on flashy pride, with fog that’s heaven-sent
to equalise sky, streets, and thus block out
this towering statement of entitlement.
The wearied seaman dims his eyes
But now, at last, through mist, descries
The Liver Building’s massy block
Against the Mersey’s sooty skies.
High as the clouds, tough as the rock,
Built to defy all storm and shock
A hundred years this pile has known
A world of ships come safe to dock.
Two monstrous birds, as from a throne
They govern, each his ordained zone,
The one to sea, the one to shore
Each rules a kingdom of his own.
Another century or more
These Liver birds, with beak and claw,
Will guard their palace strong and sure,
Will guard their palace, strong and sure.
No 2876: it’s a rap
Andrew Motion wrote a rap in 2003 to celebrate Prince William’s 21st birthday. You are invited to submit an example of another ill-advised foray into rap by a poet laureate. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 26 November.