Lucy Vickery

Doublespeak

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In Competition No. 2932 you were invited to submit up to 16 lines of verse that are the fruit of a collaboration between two poets.

This week’s brief was open to interpretation. Some of you submitted centos (poems comprised of lines from existing poems); others imagined a pair of poets co-writing a new work incorporating the styles and/or themes of both and elements of existing poems. Some match-made poets with similar preoccupations; others saw the attraction in opposites.

It was a clever and engaging entry and narrowing it down to just six was a protracted and painful process. The following would have been worthy winners had there only been more space: W.J. Webster, Katie Mallett, David Silverman, Alanna Blake, G.M. Southgate, Martin John, G.M. Davis, Basil Ransome-Davies and Brian Murdoch. Those printed below earn £25 each.

Steel from Sheffield, hearts from Woking

Take the valley like a storm.

Last night they drank champagne and brandy;

Last year they bullied in the dorm.

Half a league and half a league more,

Though the air is thick as cake

With cannonballs instead of currants.

Surely there is some mistake?

Six hundred soldiers ask no questions;

Smoke and terror parch their throats.

Mr Russell of the Times

Is very busy making notes.

That night the colonel writes a letter;

It will make the whole world lurch.

The family will place a simple

Tablet in St Leonard’s Church.

George Simmers, John Betjeman and Alfred,

Lord Tennyson

Dear Tom – in Truth I craved — your Gloom

How came you — by such Fun?

The fog was in the fir trees, Em

So nothing could be done.

Because I do not hope to turn

Fear not — I turn for you

I am that patient, etherised

Yes — I have been there too —

I died for Beauty — but you know —

Tell me, went all things well?

Earmarked — I found Eternity —

Me, short-listed for Hell.

Why write we thus — poor Poets

Misunderstood, forlorn?

We should have met before we died

Or better — not been born.

Mike Morrison, Emily Dickinson and T.S. Eliot

I love thee with a heart that overflows,

With all the vital passion of a soul

That reaches upward toward a higher goal,

And ever greens and flowers as it grows.

I will not stoop to say what I require

Of you for such a love. Do you admire

Alike all works of nature and of art?

Or do you place one foremost in your heart?

I love thee with the warmth of every breath

I love thee with my laughter and my tears,

With all my present, past, and future years,

I love thee living, dying, and after death.

You are a thing of more than mortal beauty,

And yet you do not comprehend the duty

You owe my love. But let what may befall,

You will look splendid painted on my wall.

Chris O’Carroll, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning

Westering forth from Beeny, now the sun,

Foreshadowing twilight gloom sinks in the sea.

‘I think,’ the whiting, says ‘it’s time for tea,’

And, being kind, he gives the snail a bun.

Faltering forwards, never more to glance

Upon her face, for ever lost from view,

The puzzled whiting wonders what to do

And sighs, ‘Oh will you, won’t you, join the dance?’

As was her way in former days, she parts

Yet, seemingly, no more to reappear;

‘Oh dear, oh dear!’ the whiting cries, ‘I fear

That naughty snail has taken all the tarts.’

Then, veiled in dusk, before his startled eyes

He sees her shimmering spectre standing there.

So off they trot, this merry little pair,

To dine on toasted snark and treacle pies.

Alan Millard, Thomas Hardy and Lewis Carroll

O teeth, I would I’d shown thee better care,

Else seal’d my lips to form a bulwark ’gainst

Such sweetmeats as have spell’d thy gradual doom.

Are any of thee worthy still to claim

The name of tooth when thou art chiefly made

Of precious metals, not of natural stuff?

If only I had used my purse to buy

More wholesome fare, or scour’d thee with a brush

In such a manner as I’d been advis’d,

That perfect string of lustrous pearls the Lord

Benevolently gifted me in youth

Might yet endure entire within my maw:

This dread contraption would not be my seat

And nor these chasmal nostrils now my view.

Rob Stuart, John Milton and Pam Ayres

Where are those blue, remembered hills

Where I espied my daffodils,

When, lonely as a cloud, I’d go

To see the cherry hung with snow?

They were a phantom of delight,

Like Shropshire lads all gone from sight,

Blooms from the land of lost content

To be a moment’s ornament.

Earth has not anything more fair

Than these, and oh that I were there!

My heart leapt up, but now it’s sad

For I am not a lightfoot lad.

Young rustics more alive than I

By springs of Dove go gaily by

And so with rue my heart is sore

For over brooks I’ll leap no more.

Frank McDonald, A.E. Housman and William Wordsworth

No. 2935: Triolet

You are invited to submit a Valentine’s triolet. Please email entries, wherever possible, to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 10 February.