In Competition No. 2884 you were invited to submit a poem in praise or dispraise of beards.
The beard has been rehabilitated since the dark days of Mr Twit, Jimmy Hill and The Joy of Sex. It will, as Ekow Eshun points out in his insightful essay ‘Welcome to Beardland-ia’, one day stand as ‘the definitive visual shorthand for the early 21st century, as the moustache is for the Seventies and a pair of mutton chops for Regency England’.
A large entry was evenly split between pogonophiles and pogonophobes. Susan de Sola, Debora Garber and Jonathan Taylor stood out. The winners, printed below, net £25. Basil Ransome-Davies takes £30.
What are they concealing, those whiskers
That beardies who grow them embrace,
Those uberous bristles, self-seeding as thistles,
Which camouflage half of a face?
Is it merely a shortage of jawline,
A wish to look sage and mature
Or hoping to balance that elegant valance,
A stiffly upstanding coiffure?
Do they feel, in the depth of their mirrors,
That beards raise their status among us?
A curious fetish, so very Keith Flettish,
To fashion a cult of face-fungus.
When I read that the man of the moment
Is grossly hirsute I say ‘tosh!’,
Lip loftily curling and fingertips twirling
My Errol Flynn pencil moustache.
Happy the facially hirsute,
So warm and so manly, so snug,
With their features, as ’twere, in a fur suit,
With their over-lips covered with rug —
You’d all love to own one, confess it,
For a beard is so fully enjoyed —
From the glorious mass of a Blessed,
To the nervously kempt of a Freud,
From the very firm chinwag, a Lincoln,
To the whiskery lengths of Lao Tzu —
There are several styles that bear thinking:
Go, find the style perfect for you!
Perhaps you’ll be shot through with sable,
Perhaps you’ll be straggly and careless:
Either way you’ll disable the fable
That it’s sexy to walk around hairless.
I’ve cleared the obstacles that filled my path:
I’ve married them, or stabbed them in the back.