Lucy Vickery


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In Competition No. 2957 you were invited to submit a poem with a title that is a twist on that of Keats’s sonnet ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’.

There was a fair amount of doubling-up this week: while G.M. Davis and Tracy Davidson decided to speculate on what the first perusal of an Ann Summers shop window might be like, impressive entries from both Jayne Osborn and Alanna Blake revealed the contents of a teenage daughter’s diaries.

There was a lot of skill on show elsewhere too: commendations to Paul Evans, A.R. Duncan-Jones, Tony Goldman, Tim Raikes John Whitworth and John Priestland. The winners take £25 each. Max Ross nabs £30.


On First Looking into a Telescope

‘How beautiful the moon’, I heard folk say,

‘When captured in a telescopic view,’

But I, alas, was not among the few

Who scanned the wonders of the Milky Way

Until a tutor summoned me, one day,

To share the lunar secrets that he knew

And in a moment rumours all came true.

Selene smiled, in garments ghostly grey.

Then felt I like John Keats when he first read

Homeric tales in Chapman’s crisp translation,

And everything astronomers had said

Stood undisguised, above all expectation.

And just as Keats was by his Muses led

To pen his words, I too found inspiration.

Max Ross

On First Looking into the Chilcot Report

‘Please know that I’ll be with you, come


And though our love’s a secret, do not fear:

if there are obstacles, I will endeavour

to find a way to make them disappear.

‘Your body language rocks, and I’m distracted

by manly fantasies in which we wrestle

and roll upon the floor and then [REDACTED]

Relationships like ours are truly special.

‘The things I’ll do with you should be illegal

Some might even say they are a sin.

But I would risk the world for you, my eagle.

To hell with consequences, let’s dive in.

‘One day the world shall know of our affair,

then none will doubt my love for you.

— T. Blair.’

Matt Quinn


On First Looking into Article 50 of the Treaty of Rome

Much have I travailed in the realms of guff

And many reams of legalese have read,

But now I want to cry out: ‘Hold, enough!’

Since I’ve seen what Article Fifty said.

Administration-speak is tricky stuff,

The letter always kills the spirit dead,

And sorting it all out will be quite tough

For whomsoever we may then be led.

I quote: ‘Agreements are made in accord

With Article Two-One-Eight-brackets-Three,

(The Treaty on the Functions of EU).’

It’s not too clear who even says which word

To tell some ‘qualified majority’

What’s what. Silence? And then just: ‘Toodle-oo?’

Brian Murdoch

On First Looking into Will Espy’s

‘Words to Rhyme With’

Much had I floundered as a hapless schmuck

’Midst Mount Parnassus’ bitter windswept clime;

Until I had the providential luck

To crack Will Espy’s epic book on rhyme.

His ‘Words to Rhyme With’ hit me like a bolt

Of lightning from the upper troposphere,

And changed me from a dilatory dolt

To one for ever cured of rhyming fear.

With Espy, I spin webs of clever verses

On Nimrods who pursue the sly Melursus

And other beasts, of which I seldom think;

Such as the creopohagous oxyrhynch.

I sing how engineers, in English tongue,

Expound on car suspensions, underslung;

And then I strike my harp and join the chorus

Of men who mourn the vanished Stegosaurus.

Douglas G. Brown

On First Looking into My New Neighbour’s Recycling Bin

In Prince’s Square we strive to nurse

our social status and define

our exclusivity with wine

beyond the average drinker’s purse.

But Number Nine’s new owner seems

a man devoid of vinous dreams.

His bin reveals that all he’s bought

are lager cans marked Strongest Export,

the get-that-quickly-down-your-neck sort,

the makes-a-man-a-legless-wreck sort.

So Prince’s Square has made a pledge

to ostracise and to ignore

this upstart who has moved next door,

our thin end of a social wedge

of folk too crass or, worse, too poor

for magnums of Château Latour.

Martin Parker


On First Looking into Cryptic Crosswords

Much have I struggled with those abstruse clues

in which more practised solvers take delight.

Across? — impenetrable. Down? — no sight

or sense that won’t bewilder and bemuse.

I know of cruciverbalists who choose

to suffer these contortions day and night,

untangling threads and relishing the fight.

The fools, to hold such masochistic views!

But then an anagram unfolds, and fits

neatly within the grid — a small success

but just enough to spur me on to blitz

a corner, then proceed by hunch and guess,

to wrestle with the setter’s fiendish wits,

and make this puzzle one almighty Yes!

D.A. Prince

No 2960: summertime

You are invited to submit a poem on the theme of summer in which the last two words of each line rhyme. Please email (wherever possible) entries of up to 16 lines to by midday on 3 August.