In Competition No. 2901 you were invited to write a poem in praise of a modern-day blot on the landscape.
Stephen Spender wasn’t praising pylons on aesthetic grounds in his notorious poem but celebrating the progress that these non-human structures embody: ‘There runs the quick/perspective of the future’.
The spirit of the 1930s poets — applied to those 21st-century gods technology and consumerism — was very much alive in what was a large and accomplished entry. It was tricky to single out just six prizewinners. Catherine Chandler, Tim Raikes, Bill Greenwell and Alanna Blake shone, but were narrowly pipped to the post by those printed below, who are rewarded with £25 each. Brian Murdoch pockets the bonus fiver.
Progress has led the human race unto
The plains of wickedness where we now live;
Vile, evil, sinful and degenerate,
Lacking our own moral imperative,
We can no longer tell what things are right,
But err in ethical despondency.
No guardian angels keep their eyes on us,
But we have been saved by Technology.
Break no commandments! They are filming you!
And they shall hold your image long and clear,
So think again before you kill or steal,
Lest you perhaps on Crimewatch might appear.
Complain not of the omnipresent eyes
Of our new secular society;
If there are no gods looking down on us,
We need th’ubiquitous CCTV.
I think I’ll never see a tree
As fair as these displays.
All hail the billboards that adorn
Our towns and motorways.
Though nature has its vaunted charms,
The landscape and the sky
Are useless for alerting us
To wares we ought to buy.
Raise high the hoardings that obscure
Our view of lesser sights
And dazzle us with brand names wrought
In multi-coloured lights.
These are the totems of our tribe,
The icons of our creed.
Commercial messages are all
The vista that we need.
How quaint to see a President’s intestines
Embellishing a glass and steel frame.
What kind of batty quirk of fate predestines
One’s innards to memorialise one’s name?
Yet how delightful, yellow, red and blue,
Those tubes, like colons, arteries and veins;
How elegant! (At least, they were when new,
But now, they’re rusting badly when it rains.)
Though some complain the architects were nuts
And that the building’s brutal, unrefined,
It’s good to know the President had guts,
If only of the crude digestive kind.
As for the art inside, one has to chortle
At such a joke, organically ripe:
To find that Pompidou, like any mortal,
Contains within his Centre so much tripe.
Others may sing of the thrill of speed,
The joys of the open road,
But I sing the Sleeping Policeman,
Extended outside my abode.
Observe, if you will, his voluptuous curves,
His elegant arrows of white;
His vertical colleagues have rosters and shifts,
But he is at work day and night.
He has no desire for promotion and pay,
So happy is he with his lot:
Not even the chance of commanding the Met
Would tempt him away from his spot.
He has little to do, for the visitors here
Are less likely to speed than to rob,
But I sing the Sleeping Policeman
Who always lies down on the job.
The plants that grew beside the shore
are gone; yet we espy
a plant that’s nuclear to the core
and pleasing to the eye.
The concrete block’s a beauteous sight
in this remote locale,
the gleaming dome in pristine white
is Suffolk’s Taj Mahal.
Don’t mourn the shifting shingle swathe,
for Sizewell casts its spell
upon the beaches where we bathe
and warms the sea as well.
Forget Versailles, Notre Dame,
there’s one place I would be,
it radiates exquisite charm;
I wandered lonely as a cloud
O’er lonely moor and rugged coast
When all at once I saw a crowd,
Nay, some may even say a host
Of trees set out upon the sea,
An offshore nod to forestry.
And looking back I then perceived
Tall stems with arms that twirled and twirled
Such beauty I had not believed
From man’s inventions in the world.
Like guardian angels they must stand
To bring new power to our land.
No. 2904: court report
Wimbledon is almost upon us. You are invited to take as your first line ‘There’s a breathless hush on the centre court’ and continue for up to 15 lines in the style of Sir Henry Newbolt’s ‘Vitaï Lampada’. Please email entries, wherever possible, to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 24 June.