Lucy Vickery

Praise be

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In Competition No. 3095 you were invited to submit an elegy by a poet on another poet.

The prompt for this challenge was ‘Adonais’, Shelley’s celebrated 55-stanza tribute to Keats. Frank McDonald imagined Keats responding in kind:

My heart aches for you, brother Percy Bysshe,

Who wept for me although my name was writ

In water. Dearest friend, it was my wish

We two romantics might some autumn sit…

Robert Schechter, meanwhile, channelled Auden, who also wrote a famous elegy to a fellow poet. Here he is on Ogden Nash:

Earth, receive an honoured guest.

Ogden Nash is laid to rest.

Let the Yankee vessel sink

Emptied of its light-heartedly whimsical yet somehow undeniably indelible ink.

In a modestly sized but distinguished entry, David Shields earns an honourable mention. The winners pocket £30 apiece.

O Poor deceasèd Robbie Burns — or should we

call you Rabbie?

Some say you should have been interred ’neath

old Westminster Abbey,

Instead of in Dumfries, where your barely cold

body they did bury.

O! Gone, but surely not forgotten, especially on

the 25th of January!

Wonderful wordsmith from the pretty provincial town of Alloway!

Alas! It makes me very sorry to say

That your life was so cruelly taken away

At the very tender age of only 37:

And surely now you entertain the very angels in Heaven

With your inimitable Scottish bonhomie and banter.

Your Scots Wha Hae, your Tam O’Shanter

Will live in the memories of your admirers for a

very long time,

Not forgetting your Mouse, your Louse, your Red, Red Rose and Auld Lang Syne —

When friends and relatives do gather round and twelve o’clock does chime,

How strangely poignant it is, as the calendar turns,

To drink, snog, link arms and sing the words of poor, dead Robbie Burns!

David Silverman (McGonagall on Burns)

I saw her best mind maddened by and maddening

its generation,

an electroshocked Electra thrusting her hysterical

head

into a gas oven of starry dynamo deathwish

Daddy issues,

improvising her way into the dead-by-thirthyish

crowd,

hallucinating Keats, Shelley, Byron, perpetually searching for the angry fix of suicide,

huddled in supernatural darkness with Crane,

Teasdale, someday Sexton,

high on blood, motherhood, despair, Ted Hughes and the fierce solidity of her frail self.

Ariel, creature of magic enslaved,

Ariel, the poet’s mount at full gallop,

Ariel, bare as Godiva every morning in mourning,

Ariel, triumphant in death, though Esther

Greenwood failed and lived,

Ariel breathes no more under her own bell jar,

No more confession, confession, confession

without absolution.

Chris O’Carroll (Ginsberg on Plath)

Glory be to God, for each bottling bifocal,

All dudgeon-curmudgeonly, your swift wit yet pounces,

Though blear-drear, though weary, and half pronounces

On the grim-gay world, still, restraining, unvocal

Almost! Such lip-buttoning, such a cloak’d bloke, all

Merry asperity, O never to mind what the clown says,

With your hearse-horse hissing, as out flounces

The humming undertaker, like a straw-mouth’d yokel!

And the misery clots, sclerotic and atrabilious —

ah! how Spartan-spare, dry of eye, how drolly —

See your face fussing, pure paterfamilias,

As you smirch church, and a wed-bed’s barcarolle,

Yet work, walk, wake, pinched, punctilious —

For we swear by you, perhaps, perhaps, half-holy!

Bill Greenwell (Manley Hopkins on Larkin)

Not built for combat, still he fought

To stop the vandals at the gate

Before they could eliminate

The High Victorian style for being

Not architecture of the sort

A modernist could be caught seeing.

He loved the redolence of names,

Made memories fresh, and had the wit

To make his poignant feelings fit

The crafted grooves of form and rhyme

To celebrate what verse reclaims

From out the teeth of times and time.

W.J. Webster (Larkin on Betjeman)

’E was a nipper from Lorraine.

You’d ’ave to call ’im odd.

For some ’e wasn’t hardly sane,

For others ’e was God.

A poet ain’t like you and me,

’Oo live from meal to meal.

’E’ll likely want ’is fantasy

Before what we call real.

’E was a funny kid to be

A figure of renown.

They say ’e took French poetry

And turned it upside down.

I don’t get ’alf of what ’e wrote,

Seems like ’e’s on the drink,

But Arthur Rimbaud gets my goat.

’E makes my noodle think.

Basil Ransome-Davies (Kipling on Rimbaud)

No. 3098: verse and reverse

You are invited to submit a poem that can be read both forwards and backwards. Email entries of up to 16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 8 May.